Supreme Court of the United States
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)



Locating Court Documents And Information

What sort of online resources are available?
The Court’s Web site, provides access to opinions, orders, docket, Court calendars, transcripts, schedules, rules, visitors’ guides, case-handling guides, press releases and other general information. Opinions are typically accessible on the Web site within five minutes of their release from the Bench.

Who can access the Supreme Court Library?
Supreme Court Rule 2.1 states, "The Court’s Library is available for use by appropriate personnel of this Court, members of the Bar of this Court, Members of Congress and their legal staffs, and attorneys for the United States and for federal departments and agencies." The Supreme Court Library’s main mission is to assist the Justices in fulfilling their constitutional responsibilities with the best reference and research support in the most efficient, ethical and economic manner.  As time permits, questions from the public directly pertaining to the history and work of the Supreme Court, and requiring resources unique to the Supreme Court, may be answered.

Could the Supreme Court Library help me with a general legal research question?
No, your local law library is the best place to start.  Please check the Library of Congress's Finding a Local Library for a public library near you.  If you are seeking legal assistance, please see the Consumers' Guide to Legal Help, a nationwide directory of legal services maintained by the American Bar Association.

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Where can I find a list of Supreme Court cases on a specific topic?
Your local law library would be the best place to start for this type of research.  Two printed digests, Digest of United States Supreme Court Reports (LexisNexis) and United States Supreme Court Digest (West), provide ways of locating cases by name or by subject. 

For online availability, free searching of the U.S. Reports is available at FindLaw and the Legal Information Institute (LII) at Cornell University.  Subscription-based databases of the U.S. Reports are also available.  For more detailed information on where to find opinions, please see Where to Obtain Supreme Court Opinions.

Where can I find:

...briefs filed in a Supreme Court case?
Briefs are available for the current Term by clicking on Merits Briefs.  Previous Terms are available from the ABA Preview Web site.  The ABA began providing merits briefs online starting with October Term 2003 and added amicus briefs beginning with October Term 2007. The Supreme Court Library’s collection contains records and briefs from 1832 to the present.  For additional sources of briefs, see Where to Find Briefs of the Supreme Court of the U.S.

…docket information (what items have been filed in a case)?
Please use the Court's automated docket system for the current and previous Term.  For earlier terms, the Court's docket information is available on Lexis and Westlaw beginning with cases filed from January 2000-present.

…opinions written by the Supreme Court?
The opinions of the Court are published in the United States Reports.  Printed copies of the U.S. Reports are available in many libraries nationwide. The most recent opinions of the Court are available in PDF on the Opinions page.  PDF copies of the bound volumes of the U.S. Reports are available from the Opinions page under Bound Volumes.  These date back to October Term 1991.  For more detailed information on where to find opinions, please see Where to Obtain Supreme Court Opinions.

…oral argument transcripts and recordings?
Beginning with the October 2006 Term, the Court made the transcripts of oral arguments available free to the public on its Web site on the same day an argument is heard by the Court.  Transcripts are listed by case name and date of oral argument.  Transcripts are permanently archived beginning with the 2000 Term on the Argument Transcripts page.  The Supreme Court Library's collection contains oral argument transcripts for 1968 to the present (with a sporadic collection before that date).  For more information about transcripts and the availability of audio recordings, see Transcripts and Recordings of Oral Arguments.  Oral arguments are not videotaped.

…the papers of the Justices?
The Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, maintained by the Federal Judicial Center, provides location information for the Justices' papers.  Search by the name of the Justice and then click on the link to "Research Collections" to see where the papers are available.   Many collections of papers are located at the Library of Congress and at academic and research institutions throughout the country.  Depending upon the institution, some material may be available online.  For example, see The Harry A. Blackmun Papers at the Library of Congress. Also see Directory of Manuscript Collections Related to Federal Judges, 1789-1997 for an alphabetically-arranged directory.

…proceedings before the Court?
The Journal of the Supreme Court of the United States is the official record of the Court's proceedings.  It is available on the Court's Web site from October Term 1993 to the present.  The Journal dates from October Term 1891 to the present and can be found in  libraries across the country.  All volumes of the Journal are also available through LLMC Digital. The minutes of the Supreme Court's proceedings from 1790-1950 are available on microfilm in many law libraries. 

…statistics on the Supreme Court’s work?
The Journal of the Supreme Court of the United States includes statistics on the Term at the beginning of each journal since the October Term 1958.  Several other sources, both in print and online, also publish statistics on the Court’s work.

…the text of speeches given by the Justices?
Speeches are released at the discretion of each Justice.  You may find a link to speeches approved for public release on the Public Information page.  The site includes speeches from 2000 - present. 

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Does the Supreme Court have a style manual for writing briefs?  Could you advise as to how the Supreme Court would cite to a particular document?
The Supreme Court does not have a style manual for advocates before the Court.  Please see the guides for counsel available on the Case Handling Guides page of the Court's Web site.  You may wish to consult E. Gressman, K. Geller, S. Shapiro, T. Bishop, & E. Hartnett, Supreme Court Practice (9th ed. 2007).  This practice guide is available in many law libraries and provides detailed information for those practicing before the Supreme Court.  An additional option is to search Supreme Court materials for citation to a similar document.

How do I locate the U.S. Reports citation for a case?
If certiorari has been granted or the decision below has been summarily affirmed, reversed, etc., by an order of the Court, call the Reporter's Office at 202-479-3390.  Please have the case's Supreme Court docket number, the name of the case, and the date on which the order was issued ready before you call.  If the case has been decided by an opinion of the Court, click on the "Recent Decisions" button at the top of the home page (www.supremecourt.gov), scroll down until you find your case by date, docket number, or name on the opinions chart, then check the header at the top of odd-numbered pages of the opinion for the U.S. Reports cite.

How do I find the U.S. Reports citation for an opinion of the Court?
Click on the Case Citation Finder feature under the Opinions button on the Court's Web site and follow the instructions set forth there.

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December 20, 2014 | Version 2014.1