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Court Records and Briefs in the Law Library

Research Guide about finding court records and briefs in the law library.

United States Supreme Court

U.S. Supreme Court records and briefs are widely available in both electronic and print dating back to the Court's earliest sessions in 1792. Most cases before the Supreme Court are heard at the discretion of the court. Discretionary review is requested when a petitioner files a petition for a writ of certiorari (cert.) explaining the merits of the case and arguing for why the case is a good candidate for Supreme Court review. If cert. is granted by the Court, the case proceeds to a hearing and decision on the merits. Both merits briefs and briefs petitioning for cert. are available, though petitions for cert. in cases where cert. was denied are somewhat more difficult to locate. 

Online access

American Bar Association Supreme Court Preview (free)

  • All merits briefs in cases granted cert. from 2003 term forward
  • All merits and selected (most) amicus briefs in cases granted cert. from 2007 term forward

SCOTUS Blog (free)

  • All merits briefs and selective coverage of amicus briefs for cases granted cert. from 2007 forward
  • links to oral argument transcripts from 2007 forward

OYEZ Supreme Court Media Project (free)

  • Oral argument audio recordings
  • Selective coverage from 1955 term
  • Almost complete coverage for 1979 forward

U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs Digital Archive, 1832-1978, Making of Modern Law Collection(available to UNC campus)

  • PDFs copies of records and briefs for cases 1832-1978
  • Includes petitons for cert. (including cert. denied), merit, and amicus briefs

LexisNexis (UNC Law affiliated users with password)

  • Selected coverage from 1936
  • Near complete coverage for cases in which cert. was granted starting in 1994-1995 term
  • Coverage of briefs petitioning for cert., including cert. denied, in civil cases (other than habeas cases) from the 1999-2000 term through current.
  • No cert-stage briefs for habeas cases or for criminal cases that were summarily decided or where certiorari was denied.
  • Also contains access to oral argument transcripts from 1979 forward

Westlaw (UNC Law affiliated users with password)

  • All merits and amicus briefs for cases in which cert. was granted from 1931 forward
  • Selective coverage of merits and amicus briefs for cases in which cert. was granted from 1870 to 1930
  • All petitions for cert. (including cert. denied) and related documents from 1985 forward
  • Selective coverage of petitions for cert. (including cert. denied) and related documents from 1877 to 1984  

Print and microfiche access in the Kathrine R. Everett Law Library

The Law Library maintains records and briefs of the U.S. Supreme Court in print, microfilm, and microform formats. These are especially helpful for those seeking older (pre-1832) briefs) not available online. By date, these include:

1793-present: Landmark Briefs and Arguments of the Supreme Court of the United States: Constitutional Law (KF101.8 .K87; 1st floor)

  • Large multi-volume set provides arguments and briefs for significant Constitutional law Supreme Court cases.
  • For the earliest cases, only a summary of the oral arguments is given; later cases have fuller records and briefs.

1792-1831: Appellate Case Files of the Supreme Court of the United States (Microfilm, KF101.9 U54 1962; 2nd floor)

  • Vol. 2-33 of the U.S. reports
  • Arranged in order filed with court, generally by docket number. 

1832-1896: U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs (Microfilm: KF101.9 .U54; 3rd floor).

  • Vol. 31-241 of the U.S. Reports
  • Earliest cases (1832-1860) are arranged in the order filed with the court. There is an alphabetical list of cases in the first volume for each term.
  • From 1860 to 1871 cases were arranged in a rough alphabetical sequence for each term; beginning in 1872 the arrangement on the reels follows that of U.S. Reports.
  • Index (KF101.6.S36 1976; Shelved on 3rd floor above microfiche cabinets). This paper index to this set gives U.S. Reports citations for cases as well as reel locations.

1895-present: U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs (Microfilm: KF101.9 .U54; 3rd floor).

  • Beginning with 168 U.S. 1, the library has Supreme Court records and briefs in microfiche (with some of the materials for 1946 and 1956-66 on microcard).
  • Index (KF101.6.S36 1976; Shelved on 3rd floor above microfiche cabinets). This paper index to this set gives U.S. Reports citations for cases as well as reel locations; also has finding aids for cases 1979 forward.

1952-1968: Oral Arguments of the Supreme Court; 1968-present: Complete Oral Arguments of the Supreme Court (Microfiche: KF101.9 .O65; 3rd floor)

  • Many of the oral arguments for cases argued from 1952 to 1968 were never transcribed; however, beginning in 1968 all oral arguments were transcribed and most are available in the set.
  • Index (call number: Microfiche Index KF 101.9.065). The library has printed indexes indicating which cases have oral arguments available for the years 1953-1983 only.