Research guides

Federal Caselaw

Federal Caselaw

"'Case law' generally refers to the written opinions of appellate courts on specific issues raised in litigated disputes." Morris L. Cohen et al., How to Find the Law 13 (9th ed. 1989).

Jenkins has electronic access to federal cases on Lexis, Westlaw, and Fastcase in the library. Many members can also access Fastcase remotely.

Published Decisions

Published decisions are those selected to be included for publication. Decisions from different jurisdictions are published in different reporters. Not all cases are selected for publication. Published decisions are available on Lexis and Westlaw in the library as well as on select member databases. Opinions, both published and unpublished may also be available on select courts' websites or other online sources. These online sources usually do not include editorial enhancement or citation references to reporters such as the Federal Reporter or the Federal Supplement.

The United States Reports are the official publication of the decisions of the United States Supreme Court. There is usually a delay by a few years between when the opinion is first issued and its final publication in the U.S. Reports. Commercial publishers print the opinions on a faster timetable. For more information regarding the publication of U.S. Supreme Court opinions, see https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/info_opinions.aspx.

West's Federal Reporter series prints decisions from the United States Courts of Appeals that have been selected for publication. Not all decisions are selected for publication.

West's Federal Supplement series prints decisions from the United States District Courts that have been selected for publication. Prior to the publication of the Federal Supplement in 1932, district court decisions were included in the Federal Reporter series. Not all decisions are selected for publication.

Unpublished Decisions

Unpublished decisions are those not chosen to be included for publication. Commercial databases, including Lexis, Westlaw, and Fastcase, will occasionally pick up select unpublished decisions. Not all decisions are picked up by all publishers. Some websites may also include select unpublished decisions. Many unpublished decisions can only be accessed by contacting the clerk of the court.

Subject Specific Cases

Some print reporters pull together subject specific cases. These are useful for researchers interested in those subjects. Some specialty reporters include Bankruptcy Reporter, Federal Claims Reporter, and Federal Rules Decisions. These reporters may also be available electronically.

Both Lexis and Westlaw have subject specific databases that pull together cases based on topic. Topics include bankruptcy, environmental law, immigration, labor and employment, military law, and more. Use the directories to find the subject specific databases.

Contact Research Services at 215.574.1505 or research@jenkinslaw.org for questions regarding subject specific reporters.

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