Federal Case Law from the Source

The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) and the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) have partnered to make federal judicial opinions available.  I posted on this when it was announced.

The result is a terrific, easy to search site that relieves the need for work-arounds to find court opinions.  The appellate decisions have been easily available for some time.  The benefit that this new resource offers, in my mind, is making the federal trial court opinions accessible.  In the past, a researcher looking for free case law from the federal courts would have had to visit each of the district court sites and relied on the very uneven availability of each court or judge making their decisions available.

Here is a sample search of the Ohio federal district, or trial, courts.  The search facets for further narrowing the results appear on the left.  Some of the facets are rather useless – if you search in the Ohio Southern District, you get the facet for the Circuit Court of Appeals as well as the location.  But since the court is in the 6th Circuit Appellate district and in Ohio, there’s not much help there since all decisions should already fall into those facets.  But it’s nice to know there are ways to narrow the results further, by persons and organizations mentioned in the opinions.

Pro tip:  you can quickly get to a US federal court by using their very sensible Web site name designations.  All appeals courts are at www.caN.uscourts.gov, where the N is their number.  For example, http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov is the 6th Circuit.  District courts are identified by their two letter state and their name.  So the Southern District (SD) of Ohio (OH) is http://www.ohsd.uscourts.gov.  Montana only has one court, so it is http://www.mtd.uscourts.gov.  You get the picture.  It can be faster than trying to search for the site or going to USCourts.gov and trying to find it.

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