Law: Finding U.S. Laws, Cases & Regulations

LexisNexis or Westlaw?

The content of the actual cases is the same on both services.

While some users think LexisNexis Academic (LexisNexis) offers a more user-friendly interface, many legal researchers prefer Westlaw Next Campus Research (Westlaw) for its editorial additions and structured indexing (known as the Key Number Digest).

Finding Cases About....

To save time and confusion, try to avoid free-text subject searching of case law; both LexisNexis and Westlaw offer topical headings that you can use to retrieve cases.

To find a case on a particular topic, Search West Key Number System on WestlawFor important cases arranged by topic, see Landmark Legal Cases on Lexis.

Free Case Law

About the Supreme Court of the United States

To locate important Supreme Court cases by topic, see "Landmark Cases" on Lexis (U.S. Legal) or use a book listed on the "books" tab in this guide. Also, these free websites provide reliable information about the Supreme Court and its cases:

The Oyez Project   |   U.S. Supreme Court (official site)  |  Finding Supreme Court Records & Briefs (LOC blog)  |  Landmark Supreme Court Cases (streetlaw.org)  | Supreme Court Nominee Info (LOC)

Finding Cases by Citation or Name

Databases  

LexisNexis logo click to sign on to the database

Click logo to sign on; on left, select U.S. legal, federal and state cases.

 
Westlaw product logo
Click logo to sign on; disable pop-up blocker as instructed. 
         
         
         
If you know the citation (for more information about citations, see below):  
Search for exact citation (with periods) in "citation" field
(347 U.S. 483 )
   
Click on cases and then advanced search and enter information in citation box
( 347 US 483 )
         
         
If you know the case name (example:  roe v. wade)  

Search for names in "Party Name" field, e.g. roe and wade in Party Name.

Tip:  phrases do not need quotation marks.

 

Use advanced search.  Type: title (roe and wade).

Tip:  phrases must be enclosed in "quotation marks".

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ABOUT CITATIONS:  The easiest way to find a case is by its citation, since many cases have the same or similar names.  Be sure to make a note of case's citation if you plan to retrieve it later on.

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).
plaintiff                                     defendant             volume   reporter   page
 
The full citation includes the names of the plaintiff and the defendant as well as reporter location and date, but only 347 U.S. 483 is necessary to retrieve the case.

Inside the Courts