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Researching US Supreme Court Cases: Opinions and Decisions

Relevant Definitions

Opinion   A court's written explanation of a judgment, usually including a summary of the facts, an explanation of the law on the issue, and the court's analysis for applying the law to those facts and coming to a conclusion. The opinions of appellate courts (courts that review the decisions of trial courts, the highest appellate court being the Supreme Court) are frequently published and create rules for future litigants to follow. Appellate judges who disagree with a majority opinion may file dissenting opinions.

Definition provided by Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary.

Dissenting opinion   The opinion of a judge who does not agree with the majority opinion. (See also: dissent)

Definition provided by Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary.

How to read a judicial opinion

Finding Supreme Court Opinions and Decisions

Supreme Court opinions are officially published in a series of books called United States Reports. You can find the full run of these books online through HeinOnline. Many of the print volumes are available from the TriCo Libraries (see this page for more information).

How to Use Landmark Cases (LexisNexis Academic)

This tutorial will help you find major cases (e.g. Roe v. Wade) directly, rather than having to sort through a large number of related search results.