U.S. Law Research guide: Judicial Law

Encyclopedias

One option for locating relevant cases by subject is to consult an encyclopedia, which is organized alphabetically by broad legal topics and contains references to supporting cases. See also LexisNexis Academic (http://library.csun.edu/restricted/lexis.scr) (Legal Research/Federal Case Law)* to search for cases by keyword. The Library has the following encyclopedias:

  • American Jurisprudence 2d [Am.Jur.2d] (ref KF 154 .A5 ... 2d floor). American Jurisprudence 2d provides a comprehensive textual statement of substantive and procedural law, arranged alphabetically under 443 broad subject treatises in approximately 80 volumes. Each individual volume of the set has its own subject index and a multi-volume general index to the entire set is also provided. Look up your topic in the general index to find the volume(s) of American Jurisprudence 2d where that topic will be covered. Example: If your topic was the right of a minor child to have an abortion, you would find the following citations in the general index under the subject, "Abortion and Birth Control":

    Minors right to abortion, Abort § 4

    If you look up Section 4 in the volume that has the subject "Abortion," you will find a brief discussion of the law with footnotes to various relevant cases. (Be sure to use all updating materials, including "pocket parts" in the back of the volumes when consulting legal reference books.)

  • Corpus Juris Secundum [C.J.S.] (ref KF 105 .C62 ...2d floor - not currently received). Corpus Juris Secundum is arranged in the same manner (similar subject breakdown, similar indexes, etc.) as American Jurisprudence 2d and can be used in the same fashion. The major difference between the two encyclopedias is that the emphasis in Corpus Juris Secundum is on citing all cases in point, American Jurisprudence 2d, on the other hand, will cite only the more major relevant cases
  • Other encyclopedias: The Library also owns several encyclopedias about law which are written for non-lawyers. These are listed in the Dictionaries and Encyclopedias section of this guide.

Digests

A more comprehensive topical index to cases is found in multi-volume sets called digests, which are organized by legal topics, and include multi-volume subject indexes. See also LexisNexis Academic (http://library.csun.edu/restricted/lexis.scr) (Legal Research/Federal Case Law)* to search for cases by keyword.

  • Digest of United States Supreme Court Reports (ref KF 101.1 .D52 ... 2d floor) Start in the Descriptive Word Index, which will identify the digest volume and section (known as a key number) of the main set. Under the key number, you will find summaries of relevant cases along with the case name and citation. Citations lead to the appropriate case reporter series, which is where you can read the judge's opinion of the case. See the citation example under Case Approach below.
  • American Law Reports [A.L.R.2d, etc.] (ref KF 132 .A . . .  2d floor) ALR provides selected decisions from every jurisdiction in the United States. The focus of this service is on decisions which the editors feel are or will become leading cases in the development of the law. This service is arranged by subject and provides extensive annotations as well as the text of decisions. Each edition has its own index. In addition, the ALR  Index covers the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th editions (ref KF 132 .A6 . . . 2nd floor). Citations to the ALR annotations can also be found in the American Jurisprudence 2nd encyclopedia (ref KF 154 .A5...2d floor).

Known Case Search

If you already know the name of a specific U. S. Supreme Court case, consult the Table of Cases (volumes 15, 15A, 15B, 15C, and 15D) of the Digest of United States Supreme Court Reports (ref KF 101.1 .D52 ... 2d floor). This table of cases will provide access to the case reports. See also LexisNexis Academic (http://library.csun.edu/restricted/lexis.scr) (Legal Research/Get a Case)* to search for known cases.

Example and explanation of a legal citation: The name of your case is "Roe v. Wade." Citations from the Digest of U.S. Supreme Court Reports table of cases will read:

ROE V. WADE, 410 U.S. 113, 35 L. Ed. 2d 147, 93 S Ct 705

Legal citations begin with the name of the case (in the citation above, Roe v. Wade is the name of the case), then a list of one or more case reporting services that include the court's decision on the case. The case reporting service information is always formatted with the volume of the service first, then an abbreviation for the name of the reporting service, then the page where the opinion begins.Abbreviations of case reporting services are listed in Bieber's Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations (ref KF246 .B46 2001 . . . Ref Rm).

The abbreviations for the case reporting services for this case are:

Iinterpreting the citation above for Roe v. Wade: the first case reporting service reference is to volume 410 of United States Reports (ref KF 101 .A5...2d floor), beginning on page 113; the second is to volume 35 of United States Supreme Court Reports (Lawyers' Edition), 2d series, (ref KF 101 .A52 ... 2d floor) beginning on page 147; and the third is to volume 93 of Supreme Court Reporter (ref KF 101 .S8...2d floor), beginning on page 705.

Why so many case reporters? The United States Reports is the official edition of United States Supreme Court decisions and is published by the federal government. Two privately published case reporters, United States Supreme Court Reports (Lawyers' Edition) and Supreme Court Reporter, also provide the full text of  decisions as well as supplementary information.

Recent Decisions

Recent decisions of the U. S. Supreme Court, not yet included in the bound copies of the United States Reports, are available:

Cases Pending

Cases pending before the U. S. Supreme Court can be found at: