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Case Law: Types of Court Reports

Basic Legal Research Concepts

Types of Court Reports

Four Types of Court Reports

There are four types of court reports – Official case reports, National Reporter System, American Law Reports, and topical law reports.

The National Reporter System

The National Reporter System is a national system of court opinions published by West. West has divided the country into a number of regional reporters and jurisdiction-specific reporters. It includes state appellate court opinions and federal court opinions. All cases reported in the National Reporter System are indexed to the West key number system (a way of finding all case law on a specific topic) and share other West editorial features. It only includes court opinions. No administrative opinions are included in the National Reporter System.

Three categories of court opinions are included in the National Reporter System – federal court opinions, state court opinions, and specialized court opinions (for example, bankruptcy).

A regional reporter is a unit of the National Reporter System that includes court opinions from a designated geographic region. For example, the South Western Reporter includes opinions from the states of Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, and Texas. There are seven regional reporters in the National Reporter System.

An offprint reporter is a West reporter that reprints individual state court opinions from the regional reporter. Offprint reports retain the regional reporter citations. For example, the offprint reporter Texas Cases contains the Texas cases reported in the South Western Reporter, and the citation of cases in Texas Cases is the same as appear in South Western Reporter.

Annotated Law Reports (ALR)

Annotated Law Reports are the publication of selected appellate court opinions that illustrate a point of law (legal rule, doctrine, or principle), and are accompanied by lengthy essays called annotations.

Each annotation (the essay) collects both cases and statutes applicable to the point of law discussed. The annotation is particularly helpful in understanding authority splits among jurisdictions. The annotation provides a leading case on point (not necessarily the leading case) together with citations to other leading cases on point. The annotation can be updated with later cases and later (superseding) annotations. The issues presented are selected by the publisher, and not all issues are treated with an annotation.

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