Print digests, published by West, provide subject access to all reported cases. Brief summaries, or "squibs", of legal issues discussed in cases are arranged topically within a digest. Through its organizational structure, a digest also serves as a topical outline of case law.
Topic and Keynumber System
Each squib is assigned a topic within the West digest system. Topics are then divided into subtopics that are assigned "key numbers." The squibs with their assigned topics and key numbers are used as headnotes in cases in West's reporter sets.
Headnotes within a reported case simply summarize the different points of law and clue the researcher to which part of the court’s opinion is relevant to the issue being researched. The headnotes in cases, with their topics and key numbers, can be used, in conjunction with the digests, to find other cases on the same subject.
Main volumes contain case squibs (headnotes from cases) arranged alphabetically by topic.
Finding cases in the West digests:
To make sure that you have the most recent cases, check the pocket part for the volume of the digest you are using and check any cumulative paper supplements that are available for the digest set you are using.
Digests are generally organized by jurisdiction: federal, region, and state. All the digests here at Tarlton are located in the reading room on the main 2nd floor.
The current digest for federal case law is West's Federal Practice Digest 5th, Stack 216 (2003-date). There are also digests for the U.S. Supreme Court.