Cases are decisions of the courts and have binding precedents. They are published in reporters, available both in print and online, and they can be searched by case citation, keyword, or name. A case citation consists of the name of the case, the volume number of the reporter, the abbreviated name of the reporter, the page on which the case begins, and the year the case was decided (though frequently citations can appear much more complex).
Example: Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, 109 S. Ct. 3040 (1989)
To determine the jurisdiction of a case by the citation, review this chart. Jurisdiction is important because current cases with similar facts are bound to follow the previous decisions from your court or a higher court in your same jurisdiction.
There are many options for online searching. Nearly all databases allow users to search by reporter citation, names of parties, or by keywords relevant to the issue. Keyword searching requires that a jurisdiction be selected, usually a specific state or federal court. Then relevant terms can be typed into the search box. Try the following database options:
UW College of Law affiliates, with student or faculty passwords:
In addition to these sites, there are other commercial options available for registered users:
Sometimes a case is reported in more than one reporter. In that case, there will be a parallel citation separated by a comma.
Example: 97 Wash. 2d 317, 646 P.2d 113 (1982)
Usually the official state reporter citation appears first, followed by the regional reporter citation. Because our library does not have a complete collection of state reporters, use the regional reporter citation (646 P.2d 113 in this example) to locate the case in our library. This is the best cite to use in most of the electronic resources as well.
United States Supreme Court decisions are freely available from a number of resources. Decisions from federal circuit courts and federal district courts are also freely available, but dates of coverage varies by source. State cases can also be searched directly or linked to from the websites below.