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George W. Hopper Law Library|College of Law

Finding a Case

     Cases are decisions of the courts and have binding precedents.  They are published in reporters, available both in print and online, and can be searched by case citation, keyword, or name.  A case citation consists of the name of the case, the volume number of the reporter, the abbreviated name of the reporter, the page on which the case begins, and the year the case was decided (though frequently they can appear much more complex).

    Example:  Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, 109 S. Ct. 3040 (1989)

    There are many options for online searching. Nearly all databases allow users to search by reporter citation, names of parties, or by keywords relevant to the issue. Keyword searching requires that a jurisdiction be selected, usually a specific state or federal court. Then relevant terms can be typed into the search box.  Try the following database options:

UW College of Law affiliates, with student or faculty passwords:

  •     Westlaw
  •     Lexis

 

 University affiliates:

 

Free Internet sites:

    Most of these sites have U.S. Supreme Court cases back to the 1800s or earlier.  However coverage of other courts is not comprehensive, with cases from federal circuit courts going back to the mid-1990s.  These sites will link to state resources online for state cases, and coverage varies widely.  Wyoming state cases are available on the Wyoming Supreme Court web site back to the 1990s.

Finding Cases in Print

    The print versions of reporters are arranged chronologically, and reporters themselves are grouped by jurisdiction.  Below are the abbreviations and names of the most common reporters, the locations of these reporters within our library, and their coverage in terms of jurisdiction.  Early reporter series are in the basement.

Abbreviation

Name of Reporter

Location

Coverage

Federal Cases

U.S.
United States Reports
M-S-1
U.S. Supreme Court
S. Ct.
Supreme Court Reporter
M-S-1 to 2
U.S. Supreme Court
L. Ed.
Lawyers' Edition
M-S-2
U.S. Supreme Court
F.
Federal Reporter
M-S-2 to 4
U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal
F. Supp.
Federal Supplement
M-S-4 to 6
U.S. District Courts

 

State Cases

A.
Atlantic Reporter
M-S-7 to 8
CT, DE, MD, ME, NH, NJ, PA, RI, VT
N.E.
Northeastern Reporter
M-S-10 to 12
IL, IN, MA, NY, OH
N.W.
Northwestern Reporter
M-S-12 & 13
IA, MI, MN, ND, NE, SD, WI
P.
Pacific Reporter
M-S-13 to 15
AK, AZ, CA, CO, HI, ID, KS, MT, NV, NM, OK, OR, UT, WA, WY
S.E.
South Eastern Reporter
M-S-15 & 16
GA, NC, SC, VA, WV
So.
Southern Reporter
M-S-16 & 17
AL, FL, LA, MS
S.W.
South Western Reporter
M-S-19
AR, KY, MO, TN, TX

 

    You may see a "2d" or "3d" following the reporter abbreviation (ex: P.3d).  This is part of the reporter title and indicates a new series.  When a new series begins, numbering of volumes starts over again at volume one. Watch for both the series and volume number on the spine of the reporter when retrieving from the shelves.  

Parallel Citations

     Sometimes a case is reported in more than one reporter.  In that case there will be a parallel citation separated by a comma.

 Example:  97 Wash. 2d 317, 646 P.2d 113 (1982)

    Usually the official state reporter appears first, followed by the regional reporter citation.  Because our library does not have a complete collection of state reporters, use the regional reporter citation (646 P.2d 113 in this example) to locate the case in our library. This is the best cite to use in most of the electronic resources as well.

 Searching for cases by topic

     Each set of reporters has an accompanying set of digests which indexes the subject matter of each case and arranges them according to a subject schema.  Our digest sets for Wyoming are at M-C-1; other sets begin at M-S-20. Generally it is best to look up the subject in the index of the digest set to identify your topic. 

 Case Name

     Party names is one of the search criteria in electronic case law tools, both those freely available on the Internet and the commercial databases we license. To find cases by party names in the print resource, use the Table of Cases at the end of the digest set for your known jurisdiction.  The Decennial Digest includes all published cases and is cumulated every five to ten years.  It is useful if the jurisdiction is unknown.  Digest sets are located in the Reference area, M-S-20 to M-S-22.  For more recent cases, remember to check the pocket part in the back inside cover of the book, or ask a librarian for assistance.     

02/14

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