Skip to main content
Tarlton Law Library logo Texas Law Home Tarlton Law Library Home
Today's Hours:
Today's Hours
More Hours

U.S. Supreme Court

A great place to start your research on the U.S. Supreme Court and its decisions.

Reporters

Supreme Court orders, including judgments and writs, are published in the reporters listed below. Judgments are the type of order that result from cases reviewed on the merits; these are accompanied by opinions providing the Court's holding. Depending on the views of the justices, multiple types of opinions may result: majority, concurring, dissenting, plurality, or per curiam opinions. (It is rare but possible for a justice to issue a dissent from the Court's denial of a writ for certiorari.) The Supreme Court reporter helps in editing the Court's opinions and oversees their official publication.

The very first place to obtain Supreme Court opinions is SCOTUSBlog, which occasionally live blogs from the Court as it announces its decisions. Later that same day, the Court posts slip opinions on its website, which are later added to the volumes of bound opinions. (Beginning with the Oct. 2015 Term, postrelease edits are being highlighted on the Court's website in a "Revised" column, part of the listing of a given term's opinions.)

Slip opinions:

Official United States Reports (U.S.):

  • Print: Main Floor, Stack 212
  • Online (PDF): 
  • NB: Bound reports start in 1754 because they were printed with other, earlier cases. The Court did not decide a case until 1791.

Unofficial Reports in Print/PDF:

  • Bloomberg BNA's U.S. Law Week
  • Lexis' United States Supreme Court Reports, Lawyers Edition (L. Ed.)
    • Online (PDF):
      • Lexis (login required): 1997 to date
    • Print: Main Floor, Stack 212
    • Distinctive features:
      • Annotations (legal analyses on issues arising in selected cases; duly noted toward top of page in print; at bottom of screen online)
        • Print: about four decisions per volume, in the back; updated by pocket part
        • Online: Separate database
      • Print version also has, toward back of volumes, short summaries of selected briefs submitted by the lawyers who argued the case
      • Lexis online has “Case in Brief” for many cases: expanded case summary and guide to related cases and secondary sources
  • HeinOnline: Cases Argued and Decided in the Supreme Court of the United States 1800-1926
  • West's Supreme Court Reporter (S. Ct.)

Unofficial Reports in HTML available for free online:

See also

Digests

Lexis:

  • Online: Select "Search ... by Topic or Headnote"
  • Print: Digest of United States Supreme Court Reports: Main Floor, Stack 212 (no longer updated)

West’s American Digest System:

  • Online: Select "Key Numbers"
  • Print:
    • United States Supreme Court Digest: Main Floor, Stack 212 (no longer updated)
    • Federal Practice Digest: Main Floor, Stack 216

Behind the Scenes

As set by the Court's calendar, the Court's term officially begins on the first Monday in October, though in modern practice the justices meet in late September to decide and announce new cases to be heard. From this first Monday to mid-April, the Court alternates between two week periods for oral arguments and two week recesses. During the two week oral argument periods, the Court also holds conferences to discuss certiorari petitions and orally argued cases.

The Court's consideration of petitions for writs of certiorari starts with a "discuss list." If a case does not make the list, the Court denies certiorari without discussion or a vote at conference. For those cases that make the list, Supreme Court practice has established a rule of four allowing a minority of four out of nine justices to grant certiorari. (For scheduling, see the Court's Case Distribution Schedule.) The Court announces its action the Mondays after conference.

It is also at these conferences that, within two weeks of a case's oral argument, a justice is assigned to write its majority opinion. Opinions are then announced throughout the term, predominantly in the spring and summer, typically on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. After the Court has taken action on the last case argued before it that term, usually late June or early July, it takes a summer recess.

 


Resources

The Supreme Court in Conference, 1940-1985: KF 8742 S917 2001

Draft opinions: The Unpublished Opinions…
Of the Rehnquist Court: KF101.8 S377 1996
Of the Burger Court: KF 101.8 S37 1988
Of the Warren Court: KF101.8 S38 1985
Of Mr. Justice Brandeis: KF 213 B7

In Chambers Opinions

In chambers opinions are written by a justice (usually the justice assigned to the Circuit from which the case arises) to dispose of an application by a party for interim relief (e.g., for a stay, vacation of a stay, or temporary injunction).

Available from 1926 in A Collection of In Chambers Opinions by the Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States:

For the latest in chambers opinions, see the Supreme Court's page.

Oral Opinion Announcements

Oyez

  • From 1981 Term; selected cases, 1955-1980
  • Also available as podcasts

National Archives: Finding Aid to their sound holdings

N.B. Jill Duffy and Elizabeth Lambert, Dissents from the Bench: A Compilation of Oral Dissents by U.S. Supreme Court Justices, 102 Law Library J. 7 (2010).