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Researching US Supreme Court Cases

Supreme Court Briefs

Find Supreme Court Briefs on LexisNexis: Two Approaches

You can find briefs on LexisNexis using two approaches: docket number and parties' names.

1. Docket Number (preferred)

Searching for briefs by docket number is generally preferable to searching by parties' names, since the latter may change.

- Under Advanced Options, uncheck the box for All Federal & State Cases.
- Then, check only the box for U.S. Supreme Court Briefs.
- In the search box (Build Your Own Segment Search), enter:  number( ) 
- Put the docket number of the case (e.g. 02-241) within the parentheses.
- Scroll down and click Apply, then press search.

How do you find a docket number?  Look up your case on the Cornell Legal Information Institute or Oyez. You can also find the docket number for your case at the beginning of the opinion, published in United States Reports or an unofficial reporter).


 

2. Parties' Names

You can generally find briefs by searching for the parties' names. To search by parties' names, go into LexisNexis. Under Advanced Options, check only the box for U.S. Supreme Court Briefs. In the Build Your Own Segment Search section, enter name( ) and put the parties' names (e.g. United States and Alfonso Lopez) within the parentheses. Scroll down and click Apply, then search.

What you'll find in Supreme Court briefs

Parties to each case considered by the Supreme Court file briefs related to the merits of the case. Non-parties hoping to influence the Court's decision in a case may also be permitted to file briefs as amici curiae (friends of the court). Reading the briefs can be useful for in-depth study of the facts of a case and the arguments advanced by all parties and interested non-parties. (Georgetown University Law Library Guide to Researching the US Supreme Court)


You'll find the full text of briefs in LexisNexis. At the top of each brief, you'll find information pertaining to the case for which the brief was filed, the parties in the case (the petitioner and the respondent), the docket number (e.g. 93-1260), and the type of brief being filed (in this case, amicus curiae). It's important to know who filed the brief, and if you're researching the case in question, you may want to research the individual or organization filing the brief.



A Supreme Court brief, whether filed by a party or non-party to the case, will include a summary of the argument being made (in the brief):



After the summary, you'll find a more detailed explanation of the argument: