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United States: legal resources: Cases: 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.

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US 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.