Court Records in the United States
- 1 Court Records in the United States
- 1.1 Finding Records & Briefs
- 1.2 U.S. Supreme Court Records, Briefs & Oral Arguments
- 1.3 U.S. Courts of Appeals Records, Briefs and Petitions
- 1.4 U.S. States Courts Records and Briefs
Finding Records & Briefs
Legal researchers often review the records and briefs of a case for insights into the legal reasoning and authorities used by the parties in advocating their positions. The records of a case may include pleadings, motions, trial transcripts, orders, instructions to juries, judgments and other materials. What is actually included in the published record for each case varies widely.
Depending on the court and time period involved, it may be difficult to track down the records and briefs for a particular case. Please visit the Reference Desk for assistance if you are unable to locate the records and briefs for your case. The very useful A Union List of Appellate Court Records and Briefs: Federal and State by Michael Whiteman and Peter Scott Campbell (Reference Desk KF 105.9 .W49 1999) describes what libraries hold what records and briefs, and whether they are available for interlibrary loan. You may also want to consult Free and Fee Based Appellate Court Briefs Online, a web-based article by Michael Whiteman with links to many sources for briefs.
If we are unable to find a source for the records and briefs you need, you may have to contact the court or the parties to request copies. Although records and briefs are part of the public record, be aware that courts traditionally charge a fee to make copies.
Selected sources for records and briefs are organized below by jurisdiction and court. The records and briefs are available in a number of formats including paper, microform, pdf and online through such services as LexisNexis and Westlaw.
U.S. Supreme Court Records, Briefs & Oral Arguments
U.S. Supreme Court Records & Briefs in the Library
- Landmark Briefs and Arguments of the Supreme Court of the United States. Years Covered: 1792 to present (very selective). Contents: Extremely selective, this print set contains the briefs for only four or five U.S. Supreme Court cases per term. Joint appendices are not included. For the earliest cases, only a summary of the oral arguments is given; later cases have more complete records and briefs. The names of the cases included appear on each volume’s spine for easy reference.
- Appellate Case Files of the Supreme Court of the United States. Years Covered: 1792-1831 (volumes 2-33 U.S. Reports). Contents: The appellate case files on microfilm include transcripts of records from lower courts, petitions for writs of error or certiorari, exhibits, depositions, motions orders, correspondence, and a few briefs. Cases are arranged in docket number order.
- Guide: Guide to the Appellate Case Files is available on the Microforms reference shelves (Mic Ref US 503). Index: The Index to the Appellate Case Files, available on microfilm, is located in drawer 878 near the end of the set.
- The Records and Briefs of the Supreme Court of the United States. Years Covered: 1832-1915 (volumes 31-241 U.S. Reports). Contents: This microfilm set includes both cases receiving a full opinion and those denied certiorari by the Court. The early years of this set are difficult to use as the materials are handwritten. From 1832-1871, this set is arranged by docket number; between 1871 and 1915, it is organized by U.S. Reports cite. The first volume of each term contains an alphabetical listing of cases. Index: An index is included.
- Records and Briefs of the United States Supreme Court. Years Covered: 1881-1977 (volumes 105-433 U.S. Reports). Contents: This large but incomplete print collection provides extensive coverage of records and briefs of cases before the Court and is not limited to cases receiving a full opinion. In order to retrieve the correct volume from storage, bring the citation of the case in the U.S. Reports, the docket number, or the name of the case to the Reference Desk.
- The Records and Briefs of the Supreme Court of the United States. Years Covered: 1914 to present (volume 235 U.S. Reports to present). Contents: This microfiche set includes copies of records and briefs from 1914 to the present. For 1914 to 1976, this set contains only those cases that received a full opinion from the Court. This set is organized by docket number. Index: A case name to docket number index is included. There is a finding aid and shelf list for cases from 1914 to 1976 located on the Microforms Room reference shelves.
U.S. Supreme Court Records & Briefs Online
- U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs 1832-1978.A full-text searchable database of about 150,000 Supreme Court cases, most of which did not receive a full opinion from the Court.
- FindLaw U.S. Supreme Court Briefs. Years Covered: October 1999 to present. Contents: Selected briefs for cases granted certiorari. The briefs are organized by Term and then alphabetically by first-party case name. PDF, RTF and Text formats.
- Supreme Court of the United States Merit Briefs. Years Covered: October 2003 to present. Contents: Briefs filed by the parties in every case slated for oral argument. Organized by first-party case name and by argument date. Does not include amicus briefs or joint appendices. PDF format.
- Yale University Curiae Project. Years Covered: Selected cases. Contents: The Curiae Project provides Supreme Court records, briefs, oral argument transcripts, and other relevant materials for selected cases. Cases are selected based on a ranking developed from citation data in historical and constitutional texts. PDF format.
- SCOTUSblog. Years Covered: Very current cases. Contents: Excellent source for very recent briefs. Searchable archive. Focuses on issues before the Supreme Court of the United States and other federal courts. pdf.
- LexisNexis U.S. Supreme Court Briefs. Years Covered: January 1979 to present. Contents: Beginning with the October 1993 Term, includes merit briefs only for cases granted certiorari and special masters. Prior to the October 1993 Term, includes all briefs for cases granted certiorari including joint appendices and selected special masters. Includes selected petitions for writs of certiorari. Plain text with star pagination.
- Westlaw U.S. Supreme Court Briefs. Years Covered: October 1990 to present. Contents: Includes merit briefs and amicus briefs for cases in which certiorari has been granted or probable jurisdiction has been noted and for which oral argument has been scheduled. Coverage of merits briefs begins with the October 1990 Term. Coverage of amicus briefs begins with the October 1995 Term. Plain text with star pagination.
- Westlaw U.S. Supreme Court Briefs Extension. Years Covered: 1870-1975 (selected cases), 1976 to 1990 (selected briefs). Contents: Selected briefs filed in the U.S. Supreme Court for cases from 1976-1990, with selected coverage from 1870-1975. Plain text. (Westlaw password required.)
- Westlaw U.S. Supreme Court Briefs Multibase. Years Covered: 1870 to present (selective until 1990). Contents: A multibase of all briefs available on Westlaw filed with the U.S. Supreme Court. Plain text with some star pagination.
- Westlaw Petitions for Writ of Certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court. Years Covered: 1990 to present (selective). Contents: Petitions for writs of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court and related documents, such as briefs in opposition and support of the petitions and amicus briefs. Selected coverage begins in 1990 for granted petitions and 1995 for denied petitions. Plain text.
- Westlaw U.S. Supreme Court Joint Appendices. Years Covered: Current Term (selective). Contents: Selected joint appendices filed in the U.S. Supreme Court. Plain text.
- Westlaw Briefs Multibase. Years Covered: Varies by source. Contents: Includes all briefs available on Westlaw including briefs filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, Petitions for Writ of Certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court, and briefs filed with the U.S. Courts of Appeals. Also includes the state court briefs for the states available on Westlaw. Plain text with some star pagination.
U.S. Supreme Court Oral Argument Transcripts
- The Complete Oral Arguments of the Supreme Court of the United States. Years Covered: 1952 to present. Contents: From 1952 to 1968, this microfiche set contains a limited selection of oral arguments. From 1969 to the present, most oral arguments are available. This set is organized by docket number. Index: A docket-number-to-call-number index covering October1989 to present is included. A case name index covering 1969-1987 is also included.
- LexisNexis United States Supreme Court Transcripts. Years Covered: October 1979 to present. Contents: Transcripts of oral argument in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. Plain text.
- Westlaw Transcripts of U.S. Supreme Court Oral Arguments. Years Covered: October 1990 to present. Contents: Transcripts of oral arguments in cases heard before the U.S. Supreme Court. Plain text.
- United States Supreme Court Argument Transcripts. Years Covered: October 2000 to present. Contents: Archive of oral argument transcripts. New transcripts are posted within 10-15 business days after the close of the argument session. Arranged by Term and argument date. PDF format.
- Oyez Project. Years Covered: 1995 to present (selected audio 1955-1995). Contents: The Oyez Project provides access to more than 2,000 hours of U.S. Supreme Court digitized audio. All audio recorded since 1995 is included. Before 1995, the audio collection is selective. Locate audio using the advance search function or case list by subject. SMIL and MP3 formats.