Reporters & Digests

Updated Nov. 7, 2013.
Prepared by Mary Whisner

Court opinions are published in sets called reporters. Digests are tools that help researchers locate cases on specific legal topics or issues. West is the publisher of most of the reporters and digests described in this guide.

See also the Gallagher Caselaw Research Checklist.


Reporters

Reporters contain the full text of published court opinions. When a court first releases an opinion, it is usually published as a single case in a pamphlet known as a "slip opinion" or "slip decision." Multiple opinions are collected and published in soft-bound pamphlets called "advance sheets." Depending on the publication, advance sheets are issued on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis. Advance sheets are later replaced by bound volumes, known as "reports" or "reporters." The pagination in the advance sheets and the bound volumes is identical.

Official reports are published under the authority of the legislature and are usually printed by the government. Unofficial reporters are printed by private publishers (such as West) with or without authority from the legislature. The National Reporter System, developed by West, covers both federal and state courts. All West reporters - i.e., all of the following, except U.S., L.Ed., Wash., and Wash. App. - are part of the National Reporter System.

For more information about reporters see:

the The National Reporter System (PowerPoint slideshow)

Using West's National Reporter System (PDF)

or one of the basic legal research guides in the Library (KF240 at Reference Area).


Major Reporters

U.S. (Federal)

This table identifies the major reporters for cases from the U.S. (federal) courts that are available in the Law Library. This list does not include courts that no longer exist and some specialized courts.

U.S. Court Title Abbreviation Call Number Location(s)
Supreme Court United States Reports U.S. KF101 .A212 Reference Area
Supreme Court Reporter S. Ct. KF101 .A322 Reference Area
United States Supreme Court Reports, Lawyers' Edition L. Ed.
L. Ed. 2d
KF101 .A313 L2 Reporters Area
Courts of Appeal West's Federal Reporter, 3d Series (1988-date) F.3d KF105 .F432 Reference Area
Federal Reporter, 2d Series (1925-88) F.2d KF105 .F432 L2 Reporters Area
Federal Reporter (1880-1924) F. KF105 .F432 L2 Reporters Area
District Courts West's Federal Supplement, 2d Series (1988-date) F. Supp. 2d KF120 .F42 Reference Area
Federal Supplement (1933-88) F. Supp. KF120 .F42 L2 Reporters Area
Federal Rules Decisions (1941-date) F.R.D. KF 8839 .F4 L2 Compact Stacks
Bankruptcy Courts West's Bankruptcy Reporter B.R. KF1515 .A2 W47 Reference Area
Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims West's Veterans Appeals Reporter Vet. App. KF7745 .A518 L2 Compact Stacks
Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces West's Military Justice Reporter M.J. KF7605 .A2W4 L2 Compact Stacks
Court of Claims Federal Claims Reporter Fed. Cl. KF125 .C5 C53 L2 Compact Stacks
Court of International Trade United States Court of International Trade Reports Ct. Int'l Trade KF6698 .A512 L2 Compact Stacks
Tax Court United States Tax Court Reports T.C. KF6324 .A512 Reference Area

The Law Library does not subscribe to the Federal Appendix, which includes cases from the U.S. Courts of Appeals that are not selected for publication in the Federal Reporter. These cases may be found in print in subject-specific looseleaf services and online via commercial databases and court websites. Ask a Reference librarian for assistance.

top


States

West's National Reporter System

The West National Reporter System organizes state court cases by region of the country. The map indicates the states that are included in each of the regional reporters.

Cases from Washington State appellate courts are found in the Pacific Reporter:

West's Pacific Reporter, 3d (1988-date) P.3d KF135 .P2 P32 
Reference Area
Pacific Reporter, 2d (1931-88) P.2d KF135 .P2 P32
L2 Reporters Area
Pacific Reporter (1884-1931) P. KF135 .P2 P32
L2 Reporters Area

The other regional reporters, their abbreviations, and call numbers (all in the L2 Reporters Area, outside the Student Orgs Commons) are:

Atlantic Reporter A.; A.2d; A.3d KF135.A7 A8
California Reporter Cal. Rptr.; Cal. Rptr. 2d; Cal. Rptr. 3d KFC47 .C32
New York Supplement N.Y.S.; N.Y.S.2d KFN5045 .A33
North Eastern Reporter N.E.; N.E.2d KF135 .N6 N62
North Western Reporter N.W.; N.W.2d KF135 .N7 N6
South Eastern Reporter S.E.; S.E.2d KF135 .S6 S6
South Western Reporter S.W.; S.W. 2d; S.W. 3d KF135 .S7 S6
Southern Reporter So.; So.2d; So.3d KF135 .S8 S6

The Law Library also has the official reporters for the Washington appellate courts:

Washington Supreme Court Washington Reports, 2d Wash.; Wash. 2d KFW45 .A22 Reference Area
L2 Compact Stacks
Washington Court of Appeals Washington Appellate Reports Wash. App. KFW48 .A5W3c Reference Area
L2 Compact Stacks

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.

The Law Library generally has other official state reporters that predate coverage in the regional reporters. Search the catalog by the name of the state and the phrase "law reports." LLMC Digital--a commercial online source to which the Law Library subscribes--contains PDF images of many old state court reports. Follow the link on the Legal Databases & Indexes page.

top


Digests

Cases are printed in reporters in rough chronological order. To locate cases by subject or legal issue, use a digest that covers cases from the appropriate court(s).

Digests are organized alphabetically by topics, established by West Publishing Co. and detailed in its Analysis of American Law. KF144.W4 at Reference Area & Reference Office.

Each Topic begins with a scope note (Subjects Included and Subjects Excluded and Covered by Other Topics), then an outline of the Topic (Analysis). Abstracts of points of law are then arranged in order by Key Number.

Each digest has a Descriptive Word Index and a Table of Cases. Most also have Defendant-Plaintiff Tables (earlier regional and decennial digests do not).

For more information, see The Topic and Key Number System (PowerPoint slideshow).


Digests in the Gallagher Law Library

The digests in this table are listed from most comprehensive to most specific.

Court(s) Title Call Number Location
U.S. & state courts (all cases in the National Reporter System) Decennial Digest (multiple series) KF140 - KF141 Reference Area
Classified Stacks (1897-1906)
U.S. courts, including
Supreme Court,
Courts of Appeal,
District courts,
Bankruptcy courts,
Court of Claims &
Military courts
Federal Practice Digest, 4th Series (1975-date) KF127 .W484 Reference Area
Federal Practice Digest, 3d Series (1975-89) KF127 .W483 Reference Area
Federal Practice Digest, 2d Series (1961-75) KF127 .W48 L2 Compact Stacks
Modern Federal Practice Digest (1939-60) KF127 .M6 L2 Compact Stacks
Federal Digest (1754-1938) KF127 .F4 Reference Area
U.S. Supreme Court United States Supreme Court Digest (1754-date) KF101.1 .W4 Reference Area
Compact Stacks
State appellate court cases from the Pacific Reporter * Pacific Digest (1884-date) (5 series) KF135 .P21 Reference Area
U.S. Bankruptcy courts West's Bankruptcy Digest KF515.3 .W47  Reference Area

* Note: The Law Library does not have digests for other regional reporters. Use the Decennial Digests for states not included in the Pacific Reporter and Pacific Digest.

top


Methods for Searching Digests

There are several successful approaches to using the digests to locate relevant cases.

  1. Begin with a known case.

From reading secondary sources or using annotated codes, you might have identified a major case on point. Review the topics and key numbers in that case that case; determine which of them (and there may be more than one) address the specific issue in which you are interested. Find digest that covers the jurisdiction(s) you need; the topics and key numbers are the same throughout the system.

  1. Use the Descriptive Word Index. Look up terms to find Topics and Key Numbers that have relevant abstracts.
  1. Use the topical approach.

Choose one or more Topics that are likely to address the issue you are researching. Read the scope notes to see whether your issue is covered. Skim the outline to find a Key Number or range of Key Numbers.

top


Updating Digests

  1. Check for a pocket part (or later edition of the digest).
  2. Check for interim pamphlet(s).
  3. Check digest section of recent reporter volumes and advance sheets.
  4. Use Westlaw Classic or WestlawNext.

top