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United States: legal resources: Law reports: federal

US case law online

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Finding US law report series in hard copy

The Law Library has a very good historic collection. However, some of the series have been sent off-site to Closed Stacks at the Book Storage Facility (BSF). When this has happened it indicates that Oxford SSO holders can access the volumes online. However, readers are very welcome to order the physical volumes back to the Law Library if they prefer working from the print copies. Readers can order the volumes online, please see the guidance here, or ask a librarian for assistance.

Law reports in general

In the United States (as in England) the earliest law reports were typically known by the names of the individuals chiefly responsible for their publication.  From roughly the middle of the nineteenth century these gave way to reports with jurisdictional, regional, or (occasionally) subject-based names.  In many jurisdictions, when an official series of reports was inaugurated for a particular court, the earlier nominate (or “nominative”) reports were retrospectively incorporated into that series.  This is particularly true of United States Reports (U.S.), the official reports of U.S. Supreme Court decisions, which began publication with Volume 91 (1875), but with 90 earlier volumes receiving retrospective “U.S.” volume numbers.  (The earliest “U.S.” volumes, edited by Dallas, also contain cases from other courts.)

Many of the main reports, both federal and state, are part of the National Reporter System, inaugurated in 1879 by West Publishing Company (now West Group).  A significant feature of the National Reporter System is the “key number system” which was created for the First Decennial Digest (see below) but is now used in all West digests and law reports.

 

Law reports (in general)

In the United States (as in England) the earliest law reports were typically known by the names of the individuals chiefly responsible for their publication.  From roughly the middle of the nineteenth century these gave way to reports with jurisdictional, regional, or (occasionally) subject-based names.  In many jurisdictions, when an official series of reports was inaugurated for a particular court, the earlier nominate (or “nominative”) reports were retrospectively incorporated into that series.  This is particularly true of United States Reports (U.S.), the official reports of U.S. Supreme Court decisions, which began publication with Volume 91 (1875), but with 90 earlier volumes receiving retrospective “U.S.” volume numbers.  (The earliest “U.S.” volumes, edited by Dallas, also contain cases from other courts.)

Many of the main reports, both federal and state, are part of the National Reporter System, inaugurated in 1879 by West Publishing Company (now West Group).  A significant feature of the National Reporter System is the “key number system” which was created for the First Decennial Digest (see below) but is now used in all West digests and law reports.

Annotated law reports held in the Law Bod

Digests

A digest is an index to case law, organized by subject, in which all of the cases that discuss a given point of law are listed, with a brief statement of the holding or the facts of the case.

The standard and most comprehensive digest is the group of publications in the American Digest System (also known simply as the American Digest) which uses the West “key number system”. This system was devised for the First Decennial Digest, and is now used in a wide range of West publications.  The “key numbers” form a complex system of classification in which a number is assigned to every point of law, making it much easier to find most or all of the cases that involve that point of law.  Each Decennial Digest contains a comprehensive table of cases for the period covered by that digest.  The Century Edition does not have a table of cases but is covered by a composite table in the First Decennial Digest.  These are the definitive tables of cases in American law.

 

American Digest System

Century Edition of the American Digest (1658-1896)
(Does not use the key number system)
USA 150

First to Eleventh Decennial Digests (1897 on)
Large multi-volumes covering 10 year periods.

USA 150 (sec coll)

NOTE The Ninth & Tenth Decennial Digests were each published
in 2 separte volumes covering 5 years
eg Ninth Decennial Digest Part I covers 1976-81
while Part 2 is 1981-86 

 

Eleventh Decennial Digest was published in 3 parts
Part 1 (1996-2001), Part 2 (2001-2004) & Part 3 (2004-2007)

 

Law reports (wholly or predominantly federal) held by Law Bod

Law reports (wholly or predominantly federal) in Closed Stack