This is the "III. Finding Sources: Primary Law" page of the "Law Journals' Guide to the Library" guide.
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Last Updated: Aug 23, 2014 URL: http://libguides-law.northwestern.edu/journal Print Guide RSS Updates

III. Finding Sources: Primary Law Print Page
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What are you looking for?

What are you looking for?

Cases

United States Supreme Court opinions, published cases in Federal and State Courts, and cases or pleadings in lower courts

Government Documents

U.S. Code, Public Laws, proposed laws or Congressional materials, Presidential materials, and administrative materials

International Materials

U.S. Treaties, Official Journal of the European Union, United Nations documents, etc.

 

Rationale for PDF Sources

The Bluebook has a strong preference for citation to print sources, expressed in Rule 18 and implicit throughout the rules. The Bluebook prefers print sources because they are stable over time and not subject to changes in format or pagination, or to "link rot." In many cases PDF images of print sources are readily available either on free Web sites or through library databases, and frequently these will be the most convenient method for source and cite verification.

Note that it may be necessary or appropriate to cite to a more preferred source than the author cited. A case may have become available in a source preferred by The Bluebook, or a newspaper article that was originally cited to a newspaper Web site could be acquired by an interlibrary loan request for the article as it appeared in print.

If you have any questions about any of the citations, sources, or databases used in source and cite, please ask a reference librarian for assistance!

 

      
     

    All

    Cases, Government Documents, and International Materials

    The Law Library has both within its collection and online access to a vast assortment of cases, government documents, and international materials available to you.

    1. Talk to a law librarian. The librarians are equipped to locate any law-related materials both within our collection and through online databases the library has access to. It is always a good first step to consult with a librarian when beginning research. One tip to remember: If you spend more than 10 minute looking for an item, ask a librarian!

    2. Generally speaking, casebooks can be found in the F,CAS section, located on the third floor in the library. Government documents are located in the Government Documents section on the third floor at the top of the stairs. Foreign & International materials are scattered throughout the library, but many can be found on the third floor in the I, MON and N,___ section, as well as spanning the fourth floor. For help locating these materials, you may reference one of our maps available at the front desk, or ask a librarian.

    3. For electronic and PDF sources, the library has access to several databases through its website. Please refer to tables below to locate the specific type of material you are looking for:

     

    Cases

    Government Documents

    International Materials

     

    Cases

    United States Supreme CourtThe Bluebook provides extensive rules for citation to United States Supreme Court opinions in Table T1. Slip opinions are first to appear and the United States Reports the last. The library holds print copies of each of these sources except slip opinions. The Bluebook requires citation in the following order of preference, if the decision is available in that source. If the case may have become available in a more preferred source since the article was drafted, cite to that instead.

    Cite Reporter (in order of Bluebook preference) PDF Source Coverage

    U.S.

     

    Official United States Reports.

    (Publication of the United States Reports generally lags 2-3 years after the decisions)

    HeinOnline

    Complete Archive

    Supreme Court website (files are very large)

    From 1991

    U.S.

    United States Preliminary Reports Prints

    (Softbound versions subject to correction; lags about a year)

    HeinOnline Approximately one year to three years 
    S. Ct. West Supreme Court Reporter West's Supreme Court Reporter is available in PDF in Find & Print. Follow the instructionsbelow. You can also find the PDFs in Westlaw. From 1918 (for source and cite purposes, only last 2-3 years important for citation purposes)
    L. Ed. Supreme Court Reporter -- Lawyer's Edition Not available in PDF.
    U.S.L.W. United States Law Week Database available online, but not in a PDF format.
    (Slip Op.) Slip opinions Supreme Court Web site Last three years
    HeinOnline Last four years
    Records and Briefs Westlaw From 1990
    Making of Modern Law 1832-1978


    Published Cases in Federal and State Courts

    Westlaw now provides PDFs of substantially all published decisions in its federal and Regional Reporters back to 1920. This means that most federal and state cases you need should be available. Since theBluebook prefers the West Regional Reporters to state official reporters, West's PDFs make the job much easier. The principal exceptions are the California Reporter (Cal. Rptr.) and the New York Supplement(N.Y.S. Supp.).

    You can access PDFs at the top of any opinions for which they are available by locating the decision with Find or by a search in the appropriate case database. The easiest approach to download several cases at once, however, is to use Westlaw's Find & Print. Enter the cites you need (up to 20), and check Substitute with Reporter Images when Available (PDF).


    Cases or Pleadings in Lower Courts Not Available in PDF on Westlaw

    Traditionally lower court decisions in most state court systems, in addition to pleadings and other court filings, were not published because they lacked precedential value. Now you can frequently find such documents in PDF online, but it can take some searching. They may be posted by parties to the case, interested organizations, or courts themselves where cases are especially important. A Google search limited to the filetype:pdf can often bring up a document if you search for the key parties in the case.

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    United States Government Documents

    U.S. Statutes

    What the cite looks like Publication PDF Source Coverage
    42 U.S.C. 1983 United States Code FDSys 103rd Congress (1994) to date
    HeinOnline 1789-2006
    Office of the Law Revision Counsel
    Preliminary (advance) version

    U.S. Public Laws

    What the cite looks like Publication PDF Source Coverage
    Pub. L. No. 102-2 
    P.L. 102-408 
    106 Stat. 1992

    Statutes at Large

    U.S. Public and Private Laws

    FDsys

    Congress.gov

    104th Congress (1995) to date
    HeinOnline 1789-2002
    Westlaw
    1789-1972


    Proposed Laws and Congressional Materials

    What the cite looks like Publication PDF Source Coverage
    S. 516 
    H.R. 422
    Congressional Bills

    FDsys

    Congress.gov

    ProQuest Congressional

    103d Congress (1993) to date

    103d Congress (1993) to date

    100th Congress (1987) to date

    Congressional Committee Prints

    FDsys

    ProQuest Congressional

    105th Congress (1997) to date

    15th Congress (1817) to date

    Congressional Hearings

    FDsys

    THOMAS

    ProQuest Congressional

    105th Congress (1997) to date

    105th Congress (1997) to date

    18th Congress (1824) to date

    H.R. Rep. No. 98-2 
    S. Rep. No. 104-201
    Congressional Reports

    FDsys

    THOMAS

    ProQuest Congressional

    99th Congress (1985) to date

    99th Congress (1985) to date

    1817-present

    145 Cong. Rec. H1817 Bound Congressional Record

    FDsys

    THOMAS

    HeinOnline

    Vol. 145 (1998) to date

    Vol. 145 (1998) to date

    Vol. 1 (1873) to date

    Early congressional debates

    Library of Congress American Memory project

    HeinOnline

    1789-1877

    1789-1873


    Presidential Materials

    What the cite looks like Publication PDF Source Coverage
    Weekly Comp. Pres. Doc. Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents FDsys 1993 to date
    HeinOnline 1965 to date
    Pub. Papers Public Papers of the Presidents of the U.S. FDsys 1991 to date


    Administrative Materials (Regulations)

    What the cite looks like Publication PDF Source Coverage
    GAO Reports FDsys FY 1989 to date
    47 C.F.R. § 73.609 Code of Federal Regulations FDsys 1996 to date
    HeinOnline 1938 - 1983
    60 Fed. Reg. 50,379 Federal Register (includes proposed regulations) FDsys 1994 to date
    HeinOnline 1936 to near current


    Various Government Agency Reports and Working Papers

    Frequently working papers and agency reports court can be located in PDF by a search on Google. Some tricks to narrow your search include placing key phrases from the title in quotes (but note that authors frequently misstate titles so try various options), limiting the domain searched where appropriate (for a government report add site:gov to your Google search), and limiting the filetype to PDF (add filetype:pdf to your Google search).

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    International Materials

    U.S. Treaties (Note: Several treaty indexes and guides are available in the U.S. Treaty collection in HeinOnline.)

    What the cite looks like Item PDF Source PDF Coverage
    T.I.A.S. (Older T.I.A.S. Cites can be found in U.S.T. below) Treaties and International Acts Series HeinOnline 1982-1996
    U.S. Dept. of State 1996-2001
    U.S.T. United States Treaties and Other International Agreements HeinOnline 1950-1984
    Stat. United States Treaties in the Statutes at Large (1848, 1867) HeinOnline 1848, 1867


    Other International Materials

    What the cite looks like Item PDF Source PDF Coverage
    I.L.M. International Legal Materials HeinOnline 1962-2011
    KAV Kav Agreements HeinOnline 1986-date
    U.N.T.S. United Nations Treaty Series HeinOnline From 1946
    United Nations Treaty Collection From 1946
    L.N.T.S. League of Nations Treaty Series HeinOnline 1920-1944
    United Nations Treaty Collection 1920-1944
    O.J. Official Journal of the European Union EUR-Lex From 1998
    U.N. Doc. United Nations Document UN ODS (United Nations Official Documents System) From 1946
    United Nations Bibliographic Information System (indexing to United Nations Official Documents System) UNBISnet

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