Federal Case Law

Federal Case Law in the United States

Sources for federal case law

Decisions of the United States Supreme Court

Note that in addition to the sources mentioned in the table below, the staff of the Supreme Court also compiles a list on an annual basis of publishers of Supreme Court opinions. To access this list (last updated in August 2006), click here.

Print sources for decisions of the Supreme Court:

  • U. S. Supreme Court official opinions
  • S. Ct. Supreme Court opinions (West)
  • L. Ed., L. Ed. 2d. Supreme Court Opinions (Lawyers’ Edition, Lexis Publishing)

Online/Electronic Sources for decisions of the Supreme Court

  • FindLaw Opinions dating back to 1893, with links to cases. Cases searchable by citation, party name, or full-text search. Free access.
  • Legal Information Institute (available through Cornell Law School) Opinion coverage dates back to 1990, with an archive of decisions searchable by topic of law, party name, or author of opinion (including concurring and dissenting). Free access.
  • Westlaw SCT database contains opinions from 1945 forward. SCT-OLD contains opinions from 1790-1944.

Decisions of the Circuit Appellate Courts, Specialty Federal Jurisdiction Courts, and District Courts

Online Sources:

  • Official Web sites of the Circuit Courts Accessible through the web site of the Administrative Offices of the Courts. Recent decisions of these courts are provided online, but coverage varies from court to court.
  • Encyclopedia of Law: Search for cases within Circuit Courts, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, U.S. Tax Court, U.S. Court of International Trade, U.S. Court of Federal Claims, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, and Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals. Search capabilities differ by Circuit. Level of date coverage varies per circuit.  Through links to educational or government institution web sites, provides coverage of all circuits, but dates vary for each particular circuit. Free access.
  • Findlaw: Click on the link to the left and scroll upward to obtain free access to decisions of the appellate circuit courts. Cases are searchable by date, docket number, party name, and full-text. Dates of coverage vary per circuit.
  • Federal Court Locator from Villanova Law School Library This law school has provided links to both the official sites of the federal courts as well as alternative archival and information sites which also provide free access to court opinions of the Supreme Court and the Circuit Courts of Appeal. Please note that coverage of each court will vary.

Print sources:

F., F.2d, F.3d:

  • F.: includes decisions of the federal district and appellate courts until 1925
  • F.2d: includes decisions of only the federal appellate courts, from 1925-1993
  • F.3d: includes decisions of the federal appellate courts from 1993 forward.

F. Supp., F. Supp. 2d:

  • F. Supp.: includes decisions of the federal district courts from 1931-1998
  • F. Supp. 2d: includes decisions of the federal district courts from 1998 onward.
  • F. App. Includes federal appellate court decisions not published in the F.3d series, from 2001 onward.

Federal Case Law: 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 Federal Case Law. This part provides references, in relation to Federal Case Law, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Federal Case Law 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 Federal Case Law 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 Federal Case Law 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 Federal Case Law 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 Federal Case Law. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Federal Case Law 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 Federal Case Law when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

*This resource guide is updated frequently. However, if you notice something is wrong or not working, or any resources that should be added, please notify us in any of the "Leave a Comment" area.

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