United States Supreme Court Records and Briefs: A Finding Aid

Among the Law Library’s many holdings is a set entitled United States Supreme Court Records and Briefs (Congressional Information Service : CIS) located in the Microforms Room on 2nd floor in Cabinets 13 - 28B.

This microfiche set has the briefs from all cases decided by the Supreme Court from 1832 to the present, including the first shipments for the 2008-2009 term.  The catalog record Summary note states:  “Includes argued cases (“full opinions”), certiorari denied, per curiams, and summary dispositions.”

As to the arrangement of the microfiche over the years, I refer to the very useful guide, “Records and Briefs and Oral Arguments,” by Janis Fusaris of the University of Connecticut Law School Library whose library holds the same Congressional Information Service collection as the UW Law Library does.  I quote her analysis of the collection’s arrangement as follows:

United States Supreme Court Records and Briefs

(Microfiche : 1832 to present)

Complete records and briefs for cases decided by the court and cases where certiorari was denied.  Arrangement varies by year:

  • 1832-1871 - arranged by court term and divided into several parts, with each part containing a separate index

  • 1872-1973 - arranged by official U.S. Reports citation

  • 1974-1978 - arranged by IHS number (number assigned by Information Handling Services (IHS), the company that produced the microfilm set for these years) - check the print indexes located on shelf in microforms room for IHS number corresponding to either the case name, docket number, or U.S. Reports citation

  • 1979 to present - arranged by case docket number.”

The research guide put together by the Washburn University School of Law Library further states (in part):

  • 1980 to present - U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs - The Law Library's IHS and CIS microfiche are filed by the term of court in which a decision was rendered, by category of case (certiorari denied, summary disposition, or full opinion), and by docket number within these categories. Briefs are sent in approximately 14 shipments per term.

Given the differing arrangements of the microfiche over the years, your use of this collection will be made easier if you know the following information about a particular case:

1) Name of case;

2) Docket number;

3) Term in which the Court decided the case;

4) Type of case (full opinion, certiorari denied, per curiam, summary disposition).

Thus far, this article has focused on a specific title in a particular format, i.e. microfiche, as this is the definitive historical collection of U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs held at the the U.W. Law Library.  As such, this article’s main focus and intended purpose is to serve as a finding aid to assist our users in navigating this collection.

Among the options for obtaining U. S. Supreme Court briefs online, Westlaw has selected coverage going as far back as 1870 and Lexis offers coverage from 1979.

Findlaw has briefs online arranged alphabetically by case name from the 1999-2000 through 2007-2008 terms.

For the Court’s current term, briefs can be found at the ABA’s Preview of U.S. Supreme Court Cases.

Finally, in print, the U.W. Law Library also holds the title Landmark Briefs and Arguments of the Supreme Court of the United States: Constitutional Law in the Reference Collection at Ref  KF101.8 K87.  It is composed of nearly 400 volumes with briefs from major constitutional law cases dating back to 1793.

If it is only summaries of briefs and the names of participating attorneys that you are looking for, these made be found in the permanent bound volumes of the United States Supreme Court Reports, Lawyers’ Edition.

As always, should you need help just ask a librarian.

Submitted by Eric Taylor on February 5, 2010

This article appears in the categories: Law Library

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