Federal Judicial Resources


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Learn about publicly available online resources for the U.S. Supreme Court. Presentation intended for library school students but offers enough information for someone who is curious about the topic.

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  • 5,000 pages of material at the end of a term; opinions can be revised a dozen times before being released.
  • Federal Judicial Resources

    1. 1. Judicial Information Sources LIS 567 Suzanne Colligan 0
    2. 2. U.S. Courts• U.S. judicial systems: state and federal• Federal District courts=Trial courts• Federal Circuit courts =Appellate• Federal Judiciary headed by 9 member Supreme Court 1
    3. 3. U.S. Courts Con’t.• Established by Congress under the authority of the Constitution, Art. III, Sec.1• Federal judgeships are presidential appointments; Senate approval for confirmation.• If confirmed, they are appointed for a lifetime. 2
    4. 4. U.S. Court Decisions• Judicial opinions also referred to as “case law”• Court decisions interpret both statutory and administrative law• Court decisions help determine constitutionality of laws, presidential actions• Stare decisis: dictates that courts follow earlier decisions when same legal issues are presented 3
    5. 5. U.S. Courts and Publishing• Not all decisions are published• Ground-breaking or those that amplify previous decisions are candidates for publication• Rule of thumb: the higher the court the more likely its decisions have been published• At the federal level, publication is not comprehensive 4
    6. 6. U.S. Courts and Publishing, con’t.• Official “court reporters” are government documents• “Unofficial court reporters” are not government documents• Commercial publishers re-publish court decisions and add editorial treatment 5
    7. 7. U.S. Supreme Court• Nation’s highest court; court of last resort• 10,000+ cases are filed; 80-90 receive formal written opinion while 50-60 additional cases are disposed of w/o review.• 1st Monday in October until the next 1st Monday in October constitutes a term.• Arguments are 1 hour• Cases are audio taped, no cameras! 6
    8. 8. U.S. Supreme Court DecisionsCases decided by:• Majority voteOne justice will write the opinion but the other justices are allowed to : Write a concurring or dissenting opinion to accompany the majority opinion• The decision indicates whether the Court upheld or reversed a lower court decision 7
    9. 9. U.S. Supreme Court Reporters• U.S. Reports is the Official Reporter• Bench Opinion-issued from the bench; pamphlet• Slip Opinion-issued a few days after Bench; may contain corrections• Preliminary Prints—softcover compilation of opinions 8
    10. 10. U.S. Supreme Court Reporters, con’t.• Bound Volumes—published about a year after the term.• In cases of discrepancy between a print and electronic decision, the print controls 9
    11. 11. Unofficial Reporters• Reprints of the U.S. Reports• Supreme Court Reporter• Supreme Court Reporter, Lawyer’s Ed.• United States Law WeekAbove are all commercially published. 10
    12. 12. U.S. Supreme Court Citations• Find the text of a court decision with reference to volume and page no.• Names consist of plaintiff(s) and respondent(s)Example:FCC v. Pacifica Foundation, 438 U.S. 726 (1978)FCC is the plaintiff, Pacifica is the respondentThe text of the case can be found in volume 438 of the U.S. Reports, page 726. The case was decided in 1978. 11
    13. 13. U.S. Supreme Court Cases Online• Opinion availability is scatteredFindlaw (1893+; Opinion Summaries 2000+)www.findlaw.com/casecode/supreme.html• The Oyez Project (availability varies, some audio, 1955+)www.oyez.org 12
    14. 14. U.S. Supreme Court Cases Online, con’t.U.S. Supreme Court Official Site (1991+)www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/opinions.htmlLegal Info. Institute (1992+ and select historic decisions)www.law.cornell.edu/supct/• Know your court case encyclopedias in your collection—they explain cases, provide citations and other info. 13
    15. 15. U.S.S.C. Online, con’t.U.S.S.C. Opinions Court Cases and Opinions from Justiahttp://supreme.justia.com/index.html• U.S.S.C. cases from vol. 1-545+ 14
    16. 16. Question I’m trying to find a court case involving “Miranda rights”. In the U.S., police are supposed to read you your rights or it’s not a legal arrest. What’s the name of it?Strategy: Legal Dictionary—define “Miranda Rights” 15
    17. 17. AnswerThe case was: Miranda v. Arizona,384 U.S. 436 (1966)Check out Oyez’s version of Miranda! 16
    18. 18. Another QuestionI’m reading about American history and I found this reference:5 U.S. 137, I think it’s a court case, where can I find out more about it?Strategy: If this is a U.S.S.C. citation, it’s an older case. Possibly historic. Use a Web site that allows searches for older decisions. 17
    19. 19. Answerhttp://supreme.justia.com/index.html• Search for 5 US 137The case is from the U.S. Supreme Court, Marbury v. Madison.• Court cases are hard to decipher for the average patron. Give them an online alternative. 18
    20. 20. Questions? 19