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Journal Staff Legal Research Guide: Cases and Court Documents

This guide is designed to assist law journal staff through the process of selecting topics, writing, editing and cite checking law review articles.

Finding Cases

You may find “authenticated, official, or an exact copy of the printed source” cases in some internet databases. Westlaw and Lexis often have links to the PDF of the case.

The law library has print copies of federal and regional case reporters on the third floor. 

Check T1 in the Bluebook for the approved case reporter for each court and jurisdiction.


Federal Cases

All case citations are written in a manner similar to this example, 698 F.3d. 982. The first number is the volume of the set (698), followed by the title abbreviation (in this example, Federal Reporter, Third Series) and concluding with a number that represents the first page of the case (982). All federal cases are found on the third floor of the library. The titles and abbreviations of the basic federal sets are given below along with the courts that they cover.

State Cases

The vast majority of state courts only publish cases decided by their intermediate and highest appellate courts. The officially published case sets for Washington are given below. A national system of regional reporters also reprints our state cases. For example, Washington State cases are found in the Pacific Reporter in addition to the official sets. The table of abbreviations for the regional reporters located at this end of this guide will help you decipher these citations.

Finding Cases and Court Documents on the Internet

Although you can also find decisions on Lexis and Westlaw, these sources are not ideal for cite-checkers because the pagination varies among databases.  When possible refer to official, print or pdf versions of cases for law journal citations. On the other hand, Bloomberg, Westlaw and Lexis may prove extremely helpful when looking for court documents.

Cases, and sometimes court documents, are also available free on the Internet through court websites (see for example Washington Courts or U.S. Supreme Court websites), Google Scholar and FindLaw.