American Law Reports

American Law Reports (ALR) in the United States


Annotated opinions of appellate courts (see apellate court (in U.S. law) ) in all jurisdictions. ALR (in U.S. law) contains a minimum of U.S. Supreme Court cases; they are taken care of by the annotations in the Lawyer’s Edition. (Law. Ed.). ALR cases are selected on the basis of probable usefulness to lawyers. They are illustrative of established principles and are not necessarily “leading cases.” Parallel official and unofficial (see national reporter system (in U.S. law) ) citations are supplied. The decision is summarized at some length and the subject of the annotation is noted. Head notes are written by the editors and classified according to the Permanent ALR Digest classification. There are frequent cross-references to the legal encyclopedia, American Jurisprudence. ALR puts out a Blue Book that brings each American Law Reports case up to date by later cases in point ALR is of cases decided in his or her own state, but is interested in cases on the same point decided in other jurisdictions. (Revised by Ann De Vries)


The ALR offers researchers annotations (articles) on a narrow point of law. The ALR is not a reporter in the sense that it collects the text of reported cases in a given jurisdiction.

Typical annotations start with the text of an entire appellate case and are followed by a discussion of the legal trend or doctrine that that case represents. These annotations also comment on related decisions from all jurisdictions on the points of law raised by the representative case. A Table of Jurisdictions directs the researcher to cases within specific states. A relevant annotation will also provide the researcher with prevailing policy arguments and legal doctrine for the issue covered in the annotation.

Additionally, a relevant annotation will provide the researcher with citations to cases, statutes, law reviews, and other ALR annotations. These citations typically found in an ALR annotation offer a useful starting point for research on narrow points of law.

American Law Reports Anotations

The A.L.R.’s six volume Index to Annotations provides comprehensive access to the A.L.R. system. It indexes the following series: A.L.R. 2d, A.L.R. 3d, A.L.R.4th, A.L.R. 5th, volumes 1 -58, A.L.R. Federal, volumes 1 to 144, L. Ed. 2d, volumes 1 to 144. The Index also contains Tables of Laws, Rules, and Regulations and Annotation History.

The A.L.R. service is updated annually by a pocket part supplement, found at the back of each volume. This includes all the cases on point which have been decided since the annotation was written. When the law as reflected in an annotation is changed by later cases, the annotation may be re-written, or a supplementary annotation may be provided. To find a supplementing or superseding annotation, consult the Annotation History Table located in the Index to Annotations .

How to use the A.L.R. given the subject matter

  • Consult the Index to Annotations volume. Look up the relevant topic heading and sub-heading to find your issue. The volume and series number of the A.L.R., and the section number under which the case will be found, are given.
  • Consult the “Index to Annotations Update” in the pocket part of the Index for more recent cases.


The ALR series continues to be updated. Updated commentary and case comments are found in the pocket parts. Also, ALR annotations are super-ceded by later, more current annotations. To verify that an annotation has or has not been super-ceded, researchers should check in the History Table at the end of the ALR Index for any references to the annotation that they are consulting.

Updating cases:

  • Consult the Annotation History Tables in the sixth volume of the Index to Annotation . Find the citation of your case in the list (in bold). Underneath your case citation is the citation of any case that supplemented or superseded it.
  • Consult the “Annotation History Table” in the pocket part of the Index for recent developments.

ALR delivers an objective, in-depth analysis of your specific legal issue, together with a complete list of every case – in every jurisdiction – that discusses it.

With thousands of attorney-authored articles covering the entire breadth of U.S. law, ALR saves you hours of time by taking the reader deeper on a topic, faster. Produced by Westlaw, it makes it more easy to find the exact ALR article the lawyer need – then links you to every other on-point resource. This series has been cited by US courts often as secondary resource.

Every article is a complete research brief that summarizes all case law relevant to a specific legal point. Articles analyze distinctions among cases to give an objective analysis of both sides of an issue.

All cited cases are also listed by jurisdiction, so that you can go directly to your local authority. Research references and sources guide you to material found in Am Jur® 2d, Am Jur Legal Forms, Am Jur Pleading and Practice Forms, and other West publications.

Features in this set include the prefatory statement, which describes the case addressed in the article; cross-references to the West Key Number System®; jurisdictions; and table of cited statutes and cases.


•Collection of annotations fully evaluate every case on a specific point of law
•Learn about recent cases affecting any article by calling the Latest Case Service Hotline
•Offers you the most complete method to locate cases and understand a specific point of law
•Provides detailed Table of Contents with thoroughly indexed tables for cross-referencing
•Saves you hours of research time
•Shows which cases are controlling or on point and why

Legal Materials

American Law Reports (ALR) is a multi-series publication comprised of articles that focus on unsettled areas of the law (often a split between federal circuits or state courts). Each article discusses the issue in detail and provides extensive footnotes to leading judicial opinions. If you find an ALR citation on the issue you are researching, all you have to do is update the key cases — by running them through Shepard’s on Lexis or KeyCite on Westlaw — and your case law research is pretty much done.

You can search for ALR articles on Westlaw (ALR). Lexis also has all the ALR articles (2NDARY;LEDALR) except for the ALR 1st series. If you have a complete cite, you can pull an article from Westlaw or West Find&Print using the sample format: “xx alr2d xxxx”. On Lexis or Lexis Get & Print use the format “xx alr 2d xxx”.

The print ALR volumes can be found in larger law libraries.

Some ALR articles, called “e-annotations,” are available only online. E-annotations may be advance publications that will eventually be published in print. Others will remain electronic-only (e.g., because they are to large to publish in a volume). In either case, they are referenced in the print index.

For a more complete discussion of the ALR series, see Fundamentals of Legal Research (West).

Predecessor Publications

The American Law Reports series was preceded by publications from the Bancroft-Whitney Company and the Lawyers’ Co-operative Publishing Company, both of which were acquired by the Thomson Corporation. The predecessor sets were:

  • American decisions, containing all the cases of general value and authority decided in the courts of the several states, from the earliest issue of the state reports [1760] to the year 1869 (Bancroft, 1878-1888);
  • American Reports (Bancroft-Whitney, 1869-1887);
  • American State Reports (Bancroft-Whitney, 1888-1911),
  • American and English Annotated Cases (Bancroft-Whitney, 1906-1918);
  • American Annotated Cases (Bancroft-Whitney, 1912-1962; also published as v. 22-40 of American and English Annotated Cases)
  • Lawyers’ Reports Annotated (Lawyers Co-op, 1888-1906); and
  • Lawyers’ Reports Annotated: New Series (Lawyers Co-operative, 1906-1918).

If you have a subscription, you can get all of these sets online through LLMC Digital. Search Worldcat to find libraries that still hold these sets in print. Lawyers’ Reports Annotated (LRA) is available on Westlaw in the Rise of American Law Database for legal encyclopedias (ROAL-JUR); to pull up only LRA articles add “& TI(lawyers’-reports-annotated)” to the end of your search.

See Also

Law Reviews
Law Journals
Legal Encyclopedias

American Law Reports–Real Property Database

This is a database related to interests in and transfers of real estate, in the following material: General Treatises, Forms, and Practice Guides. A description of this real estate database is provided below:

Full text of annotations included in ALR (First through Sixth series) and ALR Federal (First and Second series) that pertain to real property law. The database also includes the ALR Index covering these series.

Further information on United States legal research databases, including real property databases, are provided following the former link.

American Law Reports–Zoning Database

This is a database related to interests in and transfers of real estate, in the following material: General Treatises, Forms, and Practice Guides. A description of this real estate database is provided below:

Full text of annotations included in ALR (First through Sixth series) and ALR Federal (First and Second series) that pertain to zoning law. The database also includes the ALR Index covering these series.

Further information on United States legal research databases, including real property databases, are provided following the former link.

American Law Reports: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about American Law Reports. This part provides references, in relation to American Law Reports, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about American Law Reports by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about American Law Reports and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about American Law Reports or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to American Law Reports and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting American Law Reports. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about American Law Reports should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to American Law Reports when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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