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United States: legal resources: Cases

Case law of the United States of America

Vocabulary Alert: 
In the US legal environment "opinion" is often used in place of "written judgment", or court decision.
A “Slip” opinion is the first, unedited version. The court's official website may post these online within minutes of being issued.

At least in the case of the US Supreme Court, the slip opinion is next replaced by a fully edited and paginated transcript.

Holders of an Oxford SSO have access to US federal and state case law via the following databases:

Finding US Supreme Court case law

The law report series called the United States Reports (1790 to date) is the official (most authoritative) published source for the decisions (opinions) of the Supreme Court. In citations this series is abbreviated to U.S.
Alternative law report series you may encounter
Supreme Court Reporter (1882 to date) - abbreviated S.Ct. in citations
United States Supreme Court Reports, Lawyers' Edition (1790 to 1955)   - abbreviated  L.Ed. in citations
United States Supreme Court Reports, Lawyers' Edition, 2nd Series  (1956 to date)- abbreviated  L.Ed.2d. in citations

Just some of the commentary on US SC case law available both in print and free online:

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 back to the Law Library via the request from Closed Stack option on SOLO. Please ask at the Law Enquiry Desk if you have questions or problems.


Alternative to SOLO searches

As law report series can be difficult to find using SOLO the Law Library has devised the database below to help. Always feel free to ask a librarian for help if you continue to have problems.

Legal citation style

If you are writing a thesis or dissertation for the Oxford Law Faculty, follow US practice for the citation of primary sources (legislation, cases) - then apply OSCOLA's principles for consistency & clarity. (OSCOLA (4th edn, 2012) paras 2.8.1, 2.8.2)