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U.S. Judicial Branch (Courts): Opinion Databases and Guides

Guide to resources from the Judicial branch (Federal Courts) of the U.S. Government.

Legal Opinion Databases and Guides

Law Reviews--Your Key to Finding Court Cases

One of the best strategies for finding court opinions on a topic is to search law reviews.  Law Reviews are articles written by lawyers, judges, law professors, advanced law students on a legal issue or topic.  They can be a great source of background information on a particular legal issue.  Since they are academic in nature, law reviews have citations to court opinions, the law, etc, and may cite the specific sentence or paragraph within the court opinion that matches your topic.    

Below are some law review databases to explore.

Reading a Legal Citation

Have you ever been puzzled by weird looking citations such as:

  • 410 U.S. 113
  • 40 CFR §129.4
  • 65 FR 741
  • 16 USC §4246

No need to worry.  These are legal citations and they are quite easy to read once you understand their logic and abbreviations.  The abbreviation in the middle tells you the publication you need.  The first number is the volume of the publication where the citation (law, regulation, opinon, etc) is published, and the second number is the page number where the citation appears.  For instance, 410 U.S. 113 would be read as: "Volume 410 of the United States Reports, page 113."  Sometimes the first number refers to a title/part number instead of a volume number and the second number refers to a section number instead of page number.  The real tricky part is figuring out the abbreviation for the publication.  Below are some of the more common abbreviations you may run into doing research.  As you become more familiar with legal research, you will recognize the more common abbreviations.  Common U.S. abbreviations can be found here.  For other legal citations (state, local and international), see Bieber's Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations in the Doe Reference Collection.

U.S.-- United States Reports (Supreme Court opinions)
CFR -- Code of Federal Regulations (In this case, its [Title Number] CFR [Part/Section Number])
FR -- Federal Register
F -- Federal Reporter
F2d -- Federal Reporter, Second Series
USC -- U.S. Code (In this case, its [Title Number] USC [Section Number])
Stat -- U.S. Statutes at Large
Cal -- California Reporter