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Researching the United States Supreme Court

INTRODUCTION

The United States Supreme Court is the highest federal court in the country.  Many of the cases that reach the Supreme Court involve issues of constitutional law.  Created by Article 3 of the United States Constitution, the Supreme Court possesses appellate jurisdiction over all federal courts and state court cases which involve issues of the interpretation of federal law.  The Supreme Court also has original jurisdiction over select cases, such as those involving controversies between two or more states.  Use this guide as to help learn about resources for researching the United States Supreme Court,

SELECTING DATABASES: WHICH DATABASES SHOULD YOU USE?

If you are researching the United States Supreme Court, including cases before the court or their history, the Cracchiolo Law Library has access to a number of different databases you can explore.  Some databases that may be relevant include:

  • ProQuest's Supreme Court Insight (covers U.S. Supreme Court cases from 1975 to the present.  The database includes full opinions, per decision, petitioner and respondent briefs, dockets, oral arguments, joint appendices and amicus briefs. It also includes dockets, briefs, and petitions for writs of certiorari for paid cases in which the writ was denied.)  If you are interested in a Supreme Court case or cases from 1975 to the present, this is the place to look to find the relevant case documents all in one easy place.  For more information on using Supreme Court Insight check out ProQuest's Supreme Court Insight Research Guide
  • The Making of Modern Law's U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs (provides full text access to records and briefs filed in the United States Supreme Court from 1832 to 1978).  If you need case documents for older Supreme Court cases (from 1832 to 1978), this is the place to look.  For more information on using U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs check out U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs Research Guide
  • HeinOnline's The U.S. Supreme Court Library (contains complete coverage of the official U.S. Reports bound volumes as well as preliminary prints, slip opinions, and books and periodicals related to the U.S. Supreme Court).  HeinOnline also has a database on the History of Supreme Court Nominations.  If you are researching Supreme Court justices, nominated justices, or the Supreme Court nomination process, this is a great resource for information from 1977 to the present.  For more information on using Hein Online check out HeinOnline Research Guide
  • LLMC Digital contains some historical Supreme Court records, including U.S. Supreme Court Reports dating back to 1790, select historical transcripts of Supreme Court cases, and select case law digests.  If you are interested in Supreme Court history, this is a great place to look.  For example, the database contains the Supreme Court Journal from 1892 to 2015.  The Journal is the official daily record of all transactions affecting cases before the Supreme Court and it contains not only the transcripts of oral arguments, but also miscellaneous announcements made by the Justices, as well as other information, such as the names of the attorneys accepted to the Bar of the Supreme Court.  For more information on using LLMC Digital check out LLMC Digital Research Guide

  • Westlaw contains a number of Supreme Court resources, including Westlaw's United States Supreme Court Briefs (select coverage beginning in 1930, found on the Briefs category page) and Westlaw's United States Supreme Court Oral Arguments (transcripts with coverage beginning with the 1990-1991 term, found on the Trial Transcripts & Oral Arguments category page).  If you want to find recent oral argument transcripts for Supreme Court cases, or briefs for cases dating to the mid-twentieth century, Westlaw is a great resource to check out. 

  • Oxford Reference contains some relevant Supreme Court secondary sources, including the Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States.  It has entries on key cases and areas of constitutional law, such as abortion, the rights of the accused, and freedom of religion, as well as entries on less traditional areas of Supreme Court research, such as the architecture of the Supreme Court Building, and the paintings and sculptures housed within.  Other secondary sources that may be of interest include The Oxford Guide to United States Supreme Court Decisions which has entries on hundreds of the most influential Supreme Court cases and includes historical background, analysis of the legal reasoning, and how the case influenced American society.