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2.2.2 State Case Law




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This article is from the Legal Research FAQ, by Mark Eckenwiler with numerous contributions by others.

2.2.2 State Case Law

Nearly every state has an official reporter reprinting decisions
of that state's highest court. This reporter invariably has as its
title the name of the state (sometimes abbreviated), e.g., "Mass.".
(The exceptions are states like Alaska and Wyoming, which no longer
publish official reporters. The only printed resource for such cases
is the West regional reporter [see below].)

In some states, the official reporter also includes the
decisions of lower appellate and trial courts. Other states publish
one or more separate official reporters for these courts. In New
York, for instance, the current official reporters are N.Y.2d
(highest court), A.D.2d (Appellate Division cases), and Misc. 2d
(trial court opinions).

For two prominent states -- California and New York -- West also
publishes its own single-state reporter compiling the major decisions
of all courts in that state. The current editions of these reporters
are the California Reporter, 2d series (Cal. Rptr. 2d) and New York
Supplement, 2d series (N.Y.S.2d).

Because it is expensive and cumbersome for many smaller law
libraries to keep a full collection of official state reporters, West
publishes various "regional reporters," each collecting the combined
case law of a region of the U.S. These are N.W.2d (Minnesota and
Wisconsin region), N.E.2d (New York, Illinois, Ohio & parts of New
England), A.2d (Atlantic coast), So.2d (South), S.E.2d (Southeast),
S.W.2d (Texas, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee), and P.2d (Pacific).
For historical reasons, many of the categories are counterintuitive:
P.2d covers not only California, but recent additions to the Union
like Oklahoma and Kansas.

In every instance, a case in a West regional reporter can also be
found in the corresponding official state reporter. Indeed, for New
York, Illinois, and California, a single case may appear in no less
than *three* reporters (one official and one West reporter for that
state, plus a regional reporter). An example: _Hymowitz v. Eli Lilly
& Co._, 73 N.Y.2d 487, 539 N.E.2d 1069, 541 N.Y.S.2d 941 (1989).

A full list of which reporters contain the decisions of various
state courts can be found in Table 1 of the Bluebook, starting at
page 169.

Finally, note that what is true for the U.S. Supreme Court
syllabus (not valid as law) may not be true for certain state supreme
courts. In Ohio, for example, the Supreme Court itself writes the
syllabus, which is part of the official opinion (and binding as law).

 

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