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Finding a Case

A guide to the various ways to find a case

Free Databases

The following are some online databases that provide free access to case law.

Government Websites

Federal

Texas

Texas court websites provide some access to court opinions and other court documents. Access varies by court.

Other States

The availability of court opinions on state court websites varies by state and by court. You can find more information by checking court websites, consulting a research guide about finding case law in that state, or contacting a law librarian in the state.

Law Library Database Access

Frequently, law libraries provide public access to databases like Lexis and Westlaw for which you would otherwise have to pay.

Advantages of Commercial Databases

Although a significant body of case law is available for free online, commercial databases like Lexis and Westlaw provide more extensive coverage and also offer helpful enhancements, such as case summaries, headnotes, and citators.

  • Case summaries appear before cases and provide a short overview of a case.
  • Headnotes are brief summaries of important points of law in the case. Like case summaries, they appear before the case. Neither case summaries nor headnotes are part of the actual case, and you should not cite to them. However, they may help you understand the court's opinion.
  • Citators do two things: 1) they tell you which cases and other resources have cited to your case and 2) they tell you how those cases treated your case, whether positively, negatively, or in a neutral manner. Citators help you determine whether an opinion or particular holding in an opinion is still "good law." They are also helpful for finding other cases.

Database Access at Local Law Libraries

Tarlton Law Library

Travis County Law Library

Texas State Law Library