Federal Government Information

Judicial Branch

The Judicial Branch is the third branch of the Federal government. It interprets Federal laws in case of dispute or misunderstanding.


There are four court systems on the Federal level:

U.S. Bankruptcy Courts: These courts decide all bankruptcy cases in the U.S. Their mission is to settle cases to appease both the debtors and the creditors.

The three other courts, U.S. District Courts, U.S. Court of Appeals and The Supreme Court work in a hierarchically system.

Cases are first brought to the U.S. District Courts. If the case is appealed, it goes up to the U.S. Courts of Appeals. Then, the last resort for the case is to appeal to The Supreme Court. However, this court can decide to hear the case or not. If it does not hear the case, then the Court of Appeals' decision is final. If the case is decided by The Supreme Court, then this is the final word on this case. Its decision becomes the definitive ruling of this law.


The Supreme Court

U.S. Court of Appeals

U.S. District Courts

Appeals System

All Federal court decisions can be found through LexisNexis.



About This Resource

Start looking in LexisNexis. There are three different ways to cite laws:

1. United States Supreme Court Reports: This reporter is the official publication of the Supreme Cout decisions. It gives full text of the decision with no commentary. It is cited volume number US page number. For example, 410 US 113 is Roe v. Wade.

2. Supreme Court Reporter: This reporter offers full text plus enhancement. It is cited volume S Ct page number. For example, 93 S Ct 705 is Roe v. Wade.

3. United States Reports, Lawyer's Edition: This reporter offers full text plus enhancement. It is cited volume L Ed number of edition page. For example, 35 L Ed 2d 147 is Roe v. Wade.

All three citations are usually given with court decisions.

In LexisNexis, they allow you to search by Shepard's, which gives you the history after the decision was made. It will list how the decision was cited in other cases or how the law the original case used has been changed.


Judicial Opinions

LexisNexis: Basic Legal Research offers many searching options, and goes back to 1790 full-text.

  • Use Get a Case to search cases by citation or by citation.
  • Use Shepard's to search by Shepard's citation.
  • Use Federal Law to search by keyword.

Judicial Branch Resources on GPO Access contains information on the Supreme Court and federal courts. It has sporadic full-text back to 1937 (missing 1975-1992).

United States Supreme Court Digest (KF101.1 D54 1948 Reference) is a subject guide to Supreme Court decisions from 1790 onward. It gives you citation of the decisions. In order to obtain the full text, you need to refer to:



The Supreme Court bases its decisions on the interpretation of the Constitution.


The Constitution of the United States of America

Josiah Record of the U.S. Constitution.


Other Resources

USSCPLUS.com A comprehensive site for more than 5,000 cases and links to other court sites is available.

Oyez: A Supreme Court WWW Source: A legal analysis and oral arguments (RealAudio) from Supreme Court cases.



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