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Court Briefs, Dockets & Oral Arguments Research Guide: Finding Briefs

Finding Briefs: Contents

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Briefs: Online Subscription Databases

Gale U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs (1832-1978)  - This is the most comprehensive online resource available for U.S. Supreme Court records and briefs.  Search case name, citation, or full-text.

Lexis Advance - Lexis provides a good selection of recent court briefs.

  • One of the ways to search Lexis is to select the Briefs, Pleadings & Motions content type.  On the main Lexis page, the Content Types are listed below the Search Box.  You can also narrow your search by picking the jurisdiction and practice area.  
  • If there is a brief you want from a specific case, the best first step is to search for that case.  Once you find the case, select "About This Document" on the right side of the page to see the available briefs. Usually briefs are only available for recent cases. 

CourtLink is now available though Lexis Advance.  CourtLink provides access to a large collection of dockets and documents, and allows users to set Alerts and Track cases.

Westlaw - From the Westlaw Edge homepage, click on Briefs in the Content Types section. The briefs are organized as: Federal, State, and Topical.

Bloomberg Law - Briefs can be located several ways using Bloomberg Law search features:

  • Browse > All Legal Content > U.S. Courts > Court Briefs. This collection features briefs filed in the US Supreme Court from 2015 to current, plus selected older briefs.
  • Another way to find briefs in Bloomberg Law if you have a specific case is to search for the case using the Docket Search. Search by docket number or party.
  • Or search by case name with the Court Opinion Search feature. Once you have located the case opinion, click on "General Info" to the right of the opinion and then click on the docket link.
  • Once at a docket sheet, click on the number to the left of the brief you want to see. The number will be either blue or green. If it is blue it means it is available now.  If the number is green the item is not yet available; click on the number to request the item; if it can be obtained, Bloomberg will retrieve it for you within minutes.

LLMC Digital - A searchable collection of archival legal literature, case reports, statutes and documents. LLMC Digital provides online records and briefs for selected California and New York cases. Click on Search Collections and then the Records & Briefs tab to search or browse briefs.  Records and briefs for the New York Court of Appeals cover the time period 1863-1991. California case records and briefs are available for various dates, with some as early as the nineteenth century.

Briefs: Free Websites

There are a few free online sources for court briefs but none of them are comprehensive. 

  • US Supreme Court - The official US Supreme Court website lists sources to access court briefs, including a link to the ABA collection of Merits Briefs (not including amici curiae briefs and joint appendices) available through the American Bar Association's Preview of United Supreme Court Cases. These electronic versions are unofficial. The official briefs are printed versions filed with the Court. 
  • RECAP Archive - The Free Law Project is attempting to download all of the opinions and orders that are available on PACER, and make them freely accessible.
  • Office of the Solicitor General - provides access to government briefs filed on behalf of the United States. All briefs filed by the Solicitor General with the Supreme Court on or after July 1, 1998, except for responses to petitions in "in forma pauperis" or "IFP" cases. Selected briefs from 1982-1986. 
  • SCOTUSblog - reports Supreme Court cases and provides links to some decisions and briefs. (September 29, 2002 - present) For a specific term click here.
  • American Bar Association - In their Supreme Court Preview, access to briefs from 2006 to the current term are available.
  • Findlaw (Supreme Court Center) - Selected briefs are available for the 1999- 2007 terms. For briefs, click on Supreme Court Briefs.
  • LLRX.com - Features Free and Fee Based Appellate Court Briefs Online
  • Court Records Free Reference and Directory - provides direct links to U.S. trial courts, some of which provide downloadable documents.

. . .

Briefs: Print & Microform

It is difficult to find briefs before 1832 because the Supreme Court did not order records in cases to be printed until the January Term 1832 (i.e., 6 Peters). We recommend contacting the National Archives and Records Administration regarding its records and briefs holdings.

The Library does have an Index of Cases before 1832 in the book Landmark Briefs and Arguments of the Supreme Court of the United States: Constitutional Law - KF 101.9 L36. The cases listed are:

  • Chisholm v. Georgia, 2 Dallas 419 (1793)
  • Ware v. Hylton, 3 Dallas 199 (1796)
  • Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137 (1803)
  • Ex parte Bollman, 4 Cranch 75 (1807)
  • Fletcher v. Peck, 6 Cranch 87 (1810)
  • Martin v. Hunter's Lessee, 1 Wheaton 304 (1816)
  • McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheaton 316 (1819)
  • Dartmouth College v. Woodward, 4 Wheaton 518 (1819)
  • Cohens v. Virginia, 6 Wheaton 264 (1821)
  • Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheaton 1 (1824)
  • Osborn v. Bank of the U.S., 9 Wheaton 738 (1824)
  • Ogden v. Saunders, 12 Wheaton 213 (1827)
  • Brown v. Maryland, 12 Wheaton 419 (1827)
  • American Insurance Co. v. Canter, 1 Peters 511 (1828)
  • Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, 5 Peters 1 (1831)

The library has available, in print or microform, records and briefs for the following jurisdictions:

The print collection of California briefs is currently shelved in limited access off-site compact shelving.  These volumes will be moved to the 5th floor collection in Summer 2020.  Special indexes for the bound volumes of California records and briefs are located at the Reference Desk.

All of the micrographic holdings are in the 4th floor Micrographics Room, except for the 1996-2014 California briefs, which are in limited access 5th floor storage.  The currency of the microform records and briefs differs by jurisdiction and is dependent on the microform publisher. Users should consult with a reference librarian for assistance in locating the records and briefs for specific opinions.


A Union List of Appellate Court Records and Briefs: Federal and State, by Michael Whiteman & Peter Scott Campbell

Appellate court records and briefs are a useful resource for legal research, offering a wealth of background information on cases that may explain the reasoning behind judicial opinions.  This book highlights the availability of both free and fee-based resources, and also includes information about libraries and archives that maintain briefs in print and microform. This book is divided into four sections: United States Supreme Court, United States Circuit Courts of Appeals, State Final Appellate Courts, and State Intermediate Appellate Courts.

Briefs: Research Guides

U.S. Supreme Court - Where to Find Briefs
Landmark Briefs and Arguments of the Supreme Court of the United States - Index
American Association of Law Libraries - A Union List of Appellate Court Records and Briefs
Georgetown Law Library - Briefs, Oral Arguments & Other Court Documents Research Guide
Boston University School of Law - Strategies for Finding Briefs
Duke Law - Court Records and Briefs
Law Library of Congress - U.S. Supreme Court Records & Briefs
Harvard Law School - Records, Briefs & Court Findings
Gallagher Law Library  - Court Briefs & Oral Arguments: U.S. Supreme Court