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How To Find Free Case Law Online

A research guide to help you locate free case law on the internet using Google Scholar, CourtListener, FindLaw, Justia, and Public Library of Law (PLoL).

Introduction

One of the defining features of the common law system is the emphasis placed on the precedential value of case law. Until recently, case law has not been widely available on the Internet, leaving researchers with no choice but to seek out print reporters and commercial electronic databases to locate cases of interest. This situation has started to change, however, and now researchers have several free, online databases at their disposal. These resources do not replace the use of commercial print and electronic resources, since they are often limited in coverage, do not provide a digest, and do not contain a quick and effective citator External, but researchers’ use of free online materials as a starting point can save them time and money. For example, researchers might use these resources to locate cases of interest and then visit their local public law library to use citators and other subscription resources to ensure these cases are still "good law."

There are several freely-available options for tracking down electronic case law. Some of the most prominent of these are listed in this guide.

After using these resources, if you have any questions, or would like to use a citator to update the cases you have found, feel free to visit the Law Library of Congress or your local public law library External.

Joseph Ferdinand Keppler. <i>Our Overworked Supreme Court.</i>
Joseph Ferdinand Keppler. Our Overworked Supreme Court. 1885. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.