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Provides descriptive information for finding, understanding, and citing court decisions, statutes, and judicial opinions.

Citations to Legal Opinions

During your research, you might need to find a legal source based on a citation. These citations do not always look like citations you are used to in academic writing. This page aims to help you gain a basic understand of the more common types of legal citations you might encounter.

There are two books that provide the two most commonly used sets of rules used constructing legal citations. Different courts, legal periodicals and other sources will typically use either one or the other.

The Bluebook : a Uniform System of Citation compiled by the editors of the Columbia law review, the Harvard law review, the University of Pennsylvania law review, and the Yale law journal.
AUD REF KF245 .B58 2000.

ALWD Citation Manual : a professional system of citation / Association of Legal Writing Directors and Darby Dickerson.
AUD KF245 .A45 2006.

Case Citations:

These are citations that will lead you to the text of a judicial opinion as it can be found in a court reporter. The information contained in a citation for court opinions found in a reporter varies very little.

The citation will always start with shortened versions of the names of the parties to the case, for example: Johnson v. California,

Then it will give you information on which reporter, or publication, contains the text and where in that reporter to look for the text of the decision (the volume number and pages). It also contains information on which court, or jurisdiction, heard the case and what year this opinion was delivered.

   321              F.3d            791,                 793            (9th Cir.             2003)

  volume      reporter      start pg        pg cited      jurisdiction      date of decision


The reporter and jurisdiction, and sometimes even the party names, are abbreviated. In order to find out what the abbreviations stand for, try consulting either the Bluebook or the ALWD citation manual.


Note about Court Reporters:

Not all court decisions are published in one reporter. Different reporters publish decisions from various jurisdictions. Additionally, some contain cases from certain time spans.


Federal Courts:

Supreme Court Cases:

  • United States Reports {U.S.}. The official, bound volumes published by the U.S. Government Printing Office.
  • United States Supreme Court Reports {L. Ed., L. Ed. 2d}.  A commercially-published version of the United States Reports. Published by Lexis, also known as the Lawyers' Edition. Extra features include summaries of the attorneys' briefs in some cases and annotations to some selected cases in each volume.  AUD REF KF101 .U5 SerII.
  • Supreme Court Reporter {S. Ct.}. West's commercially-published version of the United States Reports.


U.S. Court of Appeals Cases:

West's Federal Reporter {F., F.2d, F.3d}. Reports opinions from all the U.S. Courts of Appeals.
AUD REF KF105 .F42.


U.S. District Court Cases:

Only select opinions from District Court cases are published.

Federal Supplement {F. Supp., F. Supp. 2d.}. reports selected opinions from U.S. District Courts.


Other federal courts' decisions you might come across:

F.R.D. [West's] Federal Rules Decisions             

Bankruptcy Reporter [West's] Bankruptcy Reporter - reports decisions of the Federal Bankruptcy Court

United States Tax Court {T.C.} Reports or T.C.M. Tax Court Memorandum Decisions

For these and other book sets which are not available at RU, you may want to browse the John Marshall Law School catalog.


State Courts

Some states have ceased publishing official reporters and state case law is only published through unofficial reporters. Case law from Illinois may appear in the following sources:

Illinois Supreme Court:

  • The North Eastern Reporter {N.E., N.E.2d}. The unofficial reporter for Illinois Supreme Court cases (1886 to present).
    AUD REF KF135 .N6.
  • Illinois Reports {Ill., Ill. 2d}. Official Illinois Supreme Court opinions (1819 to present).
    AUD REF KFI 1245 .A213.

Illinois Appellate Courts:

  • The North Eastern Reporter {N.E., N.E.2d}. The unofficial reporter for Illinois Appellate Court cases (1936 to present).
    AUD REF KF135 .N6.
  • Illinois Appellate Reports {Ill. App., Ill. App. 2d, Ill. App. 3d}. Official opinions from the Illinois Appellate Court, 1877 to date.
    AUD REF KFI1248 .A311.

Illinois Court of Claims has exclusive jurisdiction over many civil cases involving the State of Illinois including some claims for time unjustly served in prison, all claims for recoupment made by the State against any claimant, and most claims against the State based on Illinois law or regulation.

  • Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Court of Claims of the State of Illinois {Ill. Ct. Cl.}. Cases reported by the Illinois Court of Claims, 1889 to date.

Opinions from the trial courts (known as circuit courts) in Illinois usually are not usually published.


Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe also provides access to Cases by citation or keyword searching. At the Lexis-Nexis Academic home page, click on the US Legal tab in the upper left hand corner of the page. From there, click on the link for Federal & State Cases  from the list of links on the left side of the page. Lexis-Nexis offers a detailed help section with help on topics ranging from browsing a source to constructing a search.


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