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Externships & Summer Jobs: Guide to Legal Research

This guide is intended to direct externs to relevant sources for completing research assignments.

Washington State Courts

Washington Court System. The Supreme Court: Six year terms, staggered, appeals from the court of appeals, administers state court system. Court of Appeals: six year terms, staggered, appeals from lower courts except those in jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. Superior Court: four year terms, civil matters, domestic relations, felony criminal cases, juvenile matters, appeals from courts of limited jurisdiction. Courts of Limited Jurisdiction: four year terms, misdemeanor criminal cases, traffic, non-traffic, and parking infractions, domestic violence protection orders, civil actions of $100,000 or less, small claims up to $5000.

Washington Style Guide

The Twentieth Edition of The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation is the basic citation resource for Washington appellate court opinions, except as set forth in the Style Sheet.

Washington Appellate Court Resources

Washington Case Reporters

Washington cases are reported in the following reporters:

Supreme Court: Washington Reports, Washington Reports 2d.

Court of Appeals: Washington Appellate Reports

When citing Washington cases to Washington courts, follow the Reporter of Decisions Style Sheet, which uses different abbreviations for Washington court reports:

  • Washington Reports = Wash.
  • Washington Reports, 2d = Wn.2d
  • Washington Appellate Reports = Wn. App.

Washington Supreme Court and Court of Appeals Opinions

Washington Dockets

The Washington Courts website has searchable docket information for municipal, district, superior and appellate court cases. These dockets do not allow you to access the complete court file or pleadings but are a good tool for initial research. To obtain a court file, contact the clerk of the relevant court.

If your case is in Seattle Municipal Court, check their court records database for more detailed information. You can look cases up by Attorney, Defendant, Case Number or Citation Number. This is also a good source to check when you are doing a criminal background check.


Westlaw and Lexis have some Washington state court briefs, but before you pay for a brief, check to see if it is available for free at the Washington State Courts website.


In addition to Washington Practice, the WSBA Deskbooks, and Washington Lawyer's Practice Manual, forms are also available at:

Washington State Court Forms

King County Superior Court Forms Directory

Washington Pattern Jury Instructions

You can access the Washington Pattern Jury Instructions (civil and criminal) through subscription databases, or for free.