Visit the library's "Resources by Academic Discipline" Criminal Justice and Law page.
U.S. Supreme Court Web page: http://www.supremecourtus.gov
Access to LexisNexis Academic.
The decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court are first published individually in pamphlets called Slip Opinions and are located on the third floor of the library with the call number KF8742 .A4 U7.
Slip opinions are cumulated into the Official Reports of the Supreme Court (KF8742 .A4 U6), and then into the United States Reports (KF8742 .A4 U5). The library has 1921 to date, Volume 257-. Decisions are arranged in the order they were issued by the court.
The United States Supreme Court Digest covers every decision of the court 1754 to date. Because decisions are arranged by date, it is necessary to use the digest as an index to find cases by subject. The United States Supreme Court Digest is located in the Reference Collection, main floor, Ref KF101.1 .U6
The United States Supreme Court Digest is kept up-to-date by annual pocket parts which fit into the back inside cover of each volume or by a stand-alone soft-bound supplement. It is necessary to use the pocket part of each volume to find recent decisions.
Use the "Descriptive Word Index", volumes 1-1F, to look up the key words. Adjust terminology, if necessary, that is, use "homicide" instead of "murder". (Check the pocket parts of the index for updates.)
Under each keyword find a reference into the main volumes of the digest. The reference will consist of a "Digest Topic" followed by a number. To decipher the abbreviation for the Digest Topics see the list of digest topics arranged alphabetically in the main volumes; for example, "Double Jeopardy" is found in Volume 7A. The number following the abbreviation refers to the section number within the digest topic chapter.
Sample entry from the "Descriptive Word Index":
See also heading MULTIPLE OFFENSES,
Acquittal, appeal or review of,
Double J 101
In the above example under APPEAL, the index refers to the Digest Topic "Double Jeopardy" key number 101.
Turn to the Digest Topic and key number in the main volumes of the set.
101. ---- Appeal or other review of acquittal.U.S.Cal.1984. Government is precluded from appealing or otherwise upsetting acquittal by Constitution's double jeopardy clause. U.S.C.A. Const Amend. 5.
U.S. v. Powell, 105 S.Ct.471, 469 U.S. 57
83 L.Ed.2d 461.
Note that parallel cites are given for the text of the court cases. The text of the court case can be found in any of the Reporter sets listed. In the example, the case is U.S. v. Powell, and the citations listed after the name of the case tell where to find the full text of the case.
How To Read a Legal Citation:
469 U.S. 57
Means: Volume 469 of the United States Reports, page 57.
To decifer the abbreviations in the citation, you can either check the front of the volume you are using, refer to the Karrmann Library's Guide to Legal Abbreviations, or consult Bieber's Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations Ref KF246 .B46 1993.
Another method is to look under the broad Digest Topic applicable to a question. The Digest Topics are listed in the front of each volume of the United States Supreme Court Digest. At the beginning of each topic chapter in the digest is a list of subjects and sub-divisions. Search this list and then turn to the key numbers listed with the sub-division.
Example of Topical Analysis:
V. OFFENSES, ELEMENTS, AND ISSUES FORECLOSED.|
(A) IN GENERAL.
131. In general.
144. --- Burglary.
145. --- Robbery.
If you know the name of a case, go directly to the Table of Cases in Volumes 14 & 15. Under the case name you will find (1) the legal citation to the full text of the decision(s) and (2) the Digest Topics in the United States Supreme Court Digest to consult for a summary or digest of the case and other related cases. For example:
State of Wisconsin v. State of Illinois
50 SCt 266, 281 US 179, 74 LEd799--Nav. Wat 34.
Note there is a Plaintiff-Defendant volume and a reversed Defendant-Plaintiff volume.