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Features - U.S. Supreme Court Research - Select Internet Sites

By Elizabeth Lambert, Published on May 14, 2002

Elizabeth Lambert is an Anglo-American Reference Librarian at the Harvard Law School Library, and this article originated as her interview presentation to the Harvard Law School Library staff. Elizabeth holds an M.S. (L.S.) from the Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Science and a J.D. from Boston University. She has also served as an intern in the Research Department of the Supreme Court of the United States Library.


Table of Contents

Introduction
Internet Sites Pertaining to the U.S. Supreme Court
1. Cornell
2. FindLaw
3. Willamette Law Online
4. The Washington Post Website
5. The New York Times Website
6. The U.S. Supreme Court Website
7. Northwestern University's Oyez Project
Conclusion

Introduction

While many articles and Web sites identify sources pertaining to the Supreme Court of the United States (hereafter the "U.S. Supreme Court," "Supreme Court," or "Court"), fewer sources focus on those Web sites which monitor the legal and non-legal developments at the Court.  In an academic setting, these Web sites may be of particular use to students and faculty seeking to identify an original note, paper, or article topic relating to the U.S. Supreme Court.  In a broader sense, these Web sites may not only be of special interest to legal professionals, but they may also be of particular use to individuals who simply wish to stay up-to-date with the Court's activities.

This article identifies several Web sites that provide current information about legal developments at the U.S. Supreme Court.  This article also builds on another electronically published source, Researching the Supreme Court: Available Sources for Commonly Asked Questions, which was co-authored in 1999,with my friend and former colleague, Jill Duffy. The goal of the present article is to not only update Researching the Supreme Court by discussing Web sites that have since emerged, but also to focus on those Web sites which provide information about current legal and non-legal developments at the Court.

Please note that this is not a comprehensive list of electronic sources pertaining to the U.S. Supreme Court. Most notably, this presentation does not include Lexis/Nexis and Westlaw, which provide a wealth of information about the Court. However, the following Internet sites were selected because they provide free access to information about the Supreme Court, and because they allow one to move back and forth between current awareness and primary source materials with ease.

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Internet Sites Pertaining to the U.S. Supreme Court

1.  Cornell University -- the Legal Information Institute

The Legal Information Institute (LII), hosted by Cornell University, provides a free current awareness service, via e-mail, which distributes a synopsis or syllabi of U.S. Supreme Court decisions in bulletin format within hours after the information's release. While LII is not the only Internet site to offer this service, it is one of the first to do so since it has been providing this current awareness service since 1993. One can find membership to this e-mail service, known as the LIIBulletin, at the LII site. The advantage of this source is that it allows patrons to obtain current information about the U.S. Supreme Court at their desktops, literally within hours of the information's release.

U.S. Supreme Court orders and opinions have been available via the Web since 1990, as part of LII's Project Hermes. Through this service, which provides continuous, full-text Supreme Court opinions dating back to 1990, one is able to look up cases by subject, citation, name, or date. While LII only provides continuous full-text coverage of cases dating back to 1990, it also maintains hundreds of historical opinions which are edited with star pagination. One of the best features of LII is that it links to other Web sites such as the official U.S. Supreme Court Web site, FindLaw, and Northwestern University's Oyez project. In this way, LII not only provides a current awareness system but it also links patrons to primary source materials such as the U.S. Supreme Court Rules, U.S. Supreme Court briefs, oral argument recordings, and oral argument transcripts. Additionally, LII offers a link entitled Case Updates, which provides the Courts calendar and oral argument schedule with links to: (1) the orders granting certiorari and; and (2) Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism site which provides commentary regarding the cases.  As such, LII serves as a valuable source of information for observing current legal trends in the U.S. Supreme Court and obtaining primary source material about the Court.

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2.  FindLaw

Like LII, FindLaw provides a free current awareness service, via e‑mail, which distributes summaries of U.S. Supreme Court decisions shortly after the information's release.  One can find membership to this e‑mail service (known as the Supreme Court Newsletter) at the FindLaw site.  Like the current awareness source at LII, the advantage of the FindLaw newsletter is that it allows patrons to obtain current information about the Supreme Court at their desk tops shortly after the information's release.

In addition to the current awareness service, FindLaw provides a searchable database of U.S. Supreme Court decisions dating back to 1893 (150 U.S.)FindLaw allows users to search the Supreme Court opinions by name, citation, or keyword.  The FindLaw opinions are edited, and they contain star pagination and hypertext links to cited cases.  In addition, the FindLaw site provides: (1) the biographies of past and present Justices; (2) the current Court docket which provides the lower court opinions and briefs; (3) the current U.S. Supreme Court calendar; (4) information about the Courts history; (5) Court orders which include orders in pending cases, grants and denials of certiorari, and attorney discipline orders; (6) the U.S. Supreme Court Rules; (7) filing guides; and (8) U.S. Supreme Court briefs dating back to the Supreme Courts October 1999 Term forward.  The briefs are available in both HTML and PDF formats and the site provides images of the scanned briefs.

Additionally, FindLaw provides a link to other Web sites which offer scattered coverage of U.S. Supreme Court briefs.  Examples of sites that FindLaw links to include the Office of the Solicitor General's Web site which provides access to its briefs (other than responses to in forma pauperis briefs).  The briefs at the Office of the Solicitor General's Web site are grouped by the Supreme Court Term during which they were filed (which sometimes means that a case is not listed by the year in which the case was actually heard or decided).  FindLaw also provides a link to Mayer Brown & Platt's Appellate Practice Groups Web site.  Mayer Brown, a private law firm that specializes in U.S. Supreme Court practice, provides a link to nearly fifty Supreme Court briefs.

With its Supreme Court News link, FindLaw links to the Washington Post and New York Times Web sites.  FindLaw also provides a link entitled Inside the Supreme Court, which links to ABC News' coverage of the Court. FindLaw also links to the federal court's Third Branch Newsletter, a newsletter published monthly by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, and USSCPlus.com, a subscription service with current term cases and optional e‑mail notice. As such, FindLaw not only provides information regarding current developments at the Court, but like LII, it also provides a wealth of primary and secondary source information about the Court and its activities.

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3.  Willamette Law Online

Like LII and FindLaw, Willamette University provides a free current awareness service, via e‑mail, which distributes summaries of  U.S. Supreme Court decisions to a patron's e‑mail account. The summaries are provided at the certiorari granted, oral argument, and decision stages.  The certiorari summaries focus on the facts and decisions from the lower courts and, the week prior to oral arguments, the service provides an outline of the issues presented to the Court as argued in the briefs.  The decision summaries provide the U.S. Supreme Court's holding and a brief overview of the Court's reasoning.  At each stage, Willamette provides hypertext links, through FindLaw, to the lower court and U.S. Supreme Court opinions.

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4.  The Washington Post Web Site

The Washington Post Company maintains a Web site pertaining to the U.S. Supreme Court which is available from the Washington Post Web page. (The best way to reach the Supreme Court Report is to enter the term "supreme court" in the Website's search engine.) This site, currently entitled the Supreme Court 2001-02, is an excellent resource for up-to-date information about the U.S. Supreme Court.  The site compiles its current articles about the U.S. Supreme Court and it provides the Washington Post's coverage of the Court for the past two years.1 Additionally, the site provides a link to its series entitled Full Court Press, which consists of monthly articles, published on the first Monday of each month, which detail both mainstream and current legal issues facing the Court.

Like LII, the Washington Post site provides a link to the U.S. Supreme Court Web site and it links to the Court's calendar, the text of historic decisions, and selected U.S. Supreme Court briefs through FindLaw.  The strength of the Washington Post site is that it archives its articles about the U.S. Supreme Court at one convenient site and provides a mix of both scholarly and mainstream articles about the Court's activity.  Additionally, the Washington Post site links to FindLaw's searchable database of U.S. Supreme Court opinions which, as previously discussed, allows patrons to gain access to full‑text U.S. Supreme Court opinions dating back to 1893 (150 U.S.). FindLaw allows one to search the U.S. Supreme Court opinions by name, citation, or keyword.

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5.  The New York Times Web Site

Like the Washington Post, the New York Times maintains a U.S. Supreme Court Web site which is available from the New York Times Web page.2  This site, entitled In Depth -- Supreme Court, is another excellent resource for current information about the Court.  The site compiles its current articles about the U.S. Supreme Court and it provides an annual article entitled Supreme Court Roundup which contains an exceptionally detailed overview of the Court's Term.3 The New York Times site also provides a question and answer section in which readers may submit questions about the Court's rules and procedures.  The site provides a link entitled Justices of the Supreme Court which links to articles about the current Justices and, like the Washington Post Web site, the New York Times site provides a link to the U.S. Supreme Court's official Web site as well as a link to FindLaw's searchable database of full-text U.S. Supreme Court opinions.

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6.  The U.S. Supreme Court Web Site

The U.S. Supreme Court has an official Web site.  This site provides information about the Courts docket, the oral argument schedule, U.S. Supreme Court bar admissions, filing guides, and the U.S. Supreme Court Rules, among other items.  Most notably, the U.S. Supreme Court Web site provides the transcripts of oral arguments from the October 2000 Term forward, as well as information as to where one may obtain U.S. Supreme Court briefs.  The Web site also provides a link entitled What's New which often provides information about topical materials at the U.S. Supreme Court.  For example, the What's New link currently provides information about the Judicial Fellows Program as well as the orders and opinions pertaining to the Florida election cases.

Through its Opinions link, the U.S. Supreme Court Web site also provides the current terms slip opinions, as well as in‑chambers opinions (referring to stay applications, etc.), and orders (relating to dissents from denial, etc.).  The site provides slip lists, which provide the United States Reports volume and part numbers for a particular preliminary print, and counsel listings which identify all U.S. Supreme Court bar members who participated in a particular case argued before the Court.  The site also provides a case citation finder which provides the official citations for every signed, per curiam, and in‑chambers opinion published (or soon to be published) in the United States Reports.

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7.  Northwestern University's Oyez Project

Northwestern University's Oyez Project is perhaps best known for providing the audio files of U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments as well as summaries of the corresponding cases.4 Recordings of select oral arguments are available dating back to 1961, although the database is expanding.  New audio files appear on the Oyez Project Web site approximately ten months after the term in which the case was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.  Additionally, the Oyez site provides select case coverage for leading cases in constitutional law.

In addition to providing the audiotapes, the Oyez site provides biographical information about the Justices as well as the Justices' voting records, information about on this day in history (which provides information about what occurred at the U.S. Supreme Court on a particular day in the past), and the Oyez site allows one to take a virtual tour of the U.S. Supreme Court building.5

Additionally, the Oyez site provides information about the U.S. Supreme Court's current docket by providing a link to Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism Web site.  Medill's Web site, available through Oyez's on the Docket link, offers updated coverage of recently decided and pending U.S. Supreme Court cases.  Medill's Web site coverage dates back to the Supreme Courts October 1998 Term and, like the Washington Post and New York Times site, it provides links to articles written about current U.S. Supreme Court cases.

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Conclusion

In conclusion, the purpose of this article was to discuss several Web sites that may be of particular use for monitoring current legal developments at the U.S. Supreme Court.  These Web sites may not only be helpful to students and faculty seeking to identify a note, paper, or article topic relating to the U.S. Supreme Court, but they may also be of particular service to individuals who simply wish to stay up-to-date on the Court's activities.

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Footnotes

1 Many of the articles at the Washington Post Web site were written by well respected columnist Joan Biskupic.  Before joining USA Today in June 2000, Joan Biskupic was the Supreme Court reporter for the Washington Post (1992-2000).  She has also authored several reference books, including Congressional Quarterly's two-volume encyclopedia on the Supreme Court (3rd Ed., 1997, with co-author Elder Witt.) <back to text>
2 One way to reach the Supreme Court In Depth section is to enter the term "supreme court" in the Web sites search engine.  Most articles about the U.S. Supreme Court provide a link to the Supreme Court In Depth at the end of the article. <back to text>
3 Most of the articles at the New York Times site are written by Linda Greenhouse, the 1998 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for her reporting on the U.S. Supreme Court.  Linda Greenhouse became the New York Times Supreme Court correspondent in 1978.  <back to text>
4 The Oyez Web site delivers hundreds of hours of audio materials in Real Audio format through a free player available from Progressive Networks.  One can download this player from the Oyez site. The audio files are available through the Cases link; patrons will need a sound capable computer and speakers to hear the audio files.  <back to text>
5 Touring the Oyez site requires installation of the QuickTime 4.1 plug-in that the Oyez site makes available with a link. The tour involves images of the U.S. Supreme Court which provide a 360-degree panoramic view.  One "tours" the site by clicking and holding the mouse button and dragging the mouse in the direction one wants to go.  <back to text>