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The Supreme Court was established as the highest court in the land by the Constitution. It is the last court of appeal for civil and criminal cases, and it rules on the constitutionality of the laws passed by state legislatures and the U.S. Congress. Ben's Guide has this good basic overview of the Court's functions and responsibilities.
The official Supreme Court site is the place to go for background information such as justice biographies, historical material, and schedules. They also make current opinions available as well as a few years of historical opinions.
Larger databases of opinions, as well as other Supreme Court-related information, are available from these sources:
A multimedia archive of Supreme Court cases from 1955 to the present; also information on past and current Supreme Court Justices of the United States.
Supreme Court Nominations Hearings
1971-present. Before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
US Government Manual
Under the "Judicial" section, you'll find detailed information about the various components of the federal court system
A useful reference encyclopedia, in the Library on the first floor:
- Supreme Court Drama. KF4550.Z9 B73 2001. Summaries and background information on famous cases.
Other Federal Courts
The federal judiciary includes some specialized courts in addition to those discussed in the other boxes on this page. These include Bankruptcy Courts, Tax Courts, Court of International Trade, and others.
Cases and decisions from courts below the Courts of Appeals are often difficult to find online.
Remember that the Law Library has printed case law resources, as well as access to online collections not available in the Blume Library. Consult a Law Librarian for assistance.
You may also obtain some information directly from the courts. Use the Court Locator (see map at left) for contact information for the various federal courts.
Findlaw: Cases & Codes
Includes some Courts of Appeals cases; for some districts, summaries of cases are available,Coverage of 5th Court of Appeals cases (which includes Texas) goes back to 1995.
Focuses on over 2200 law journals, case law, and historical and government documents. Some United States collections: the Congressional Record, Federal Register, and Code of Federal Regulations, and parts of the Serial Set. Other notable collections include international treaties and agreements, Canon law materials, English legal materials, and United Nations legal materials. The detailed Help section offers videos, guides to topics and collections, and search instructions.
Includes local, regional, national, and international newspapers, as well as non-English language news; business information about US and international companies; federal, state and international legal materials including case law, media transcripts, and more.
US Courts of Appeals & District Courts
The heirarchy of federal courts proceeds down from the Supreme Court to Courts of Appeals, which cover multi-state regions, and then to District Courts, which cover states or portions of states.
The map below shows the geographical boundaries of the federal court system. Below the map are links to other resources.