Case Law: U.S. Supreme Court

Information on finding federal and state cases, as well as case law resources.

Opinions

Published opinions of courts are also collectively referred to as case law.  An opinion is a statement prepared by a judge or court that announces the decision after a case is tried. 

Image source:  Wikimedia Commons.  Swatjester. CC-BY-SA-2.0. 

Opinions include a summary of the facts; applicable laws, and how they relate to the facts; rationale to support the decision; a judgement.

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Life Cycle of an Opinion

The Supreme Court's opinions go through several generations--or stages--of publication.

Bench
"On days that opinions are announced by the Court from the bench, the text of each opinion is made available immediately to the public and the press in a printed form called a "bench opinion." http://www.supremecourt.gov/ opinions/info_opinions.aspx

Slip
"Several days after an opinion is announced by the Court, it is printed in a 6" x 9" self-cover pamphlet called a "slip opinion." Each slip opinion consists of the majority or plurality opinion, any concurring or dissenting opinions, and the syllabus. It may [also] contain corrections..."  http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/ info_opinions.aspx

Preliminary
"...Brown, soft-cover "advance pamphlets" that contain, in addition to the opinions themselves, all of the announcements, ½ tables, indexes, and other features that make up the U.S. Reports.  The contents of two or three preliminary prints will eventually be combined into a single bound volume." http://www.supremecourt.gov/ opinions/info_opinions.aspx

Bound
"The fourth and final generation of opinion publication is the casebound set of law books entitled United States Reports."  http://www.supremecourt.gov/ opinions/info_opinions.aspx

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