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Paralegal Studies: How tos for legal research

How to find court decisions

If You Have a Citation to the Decision in the form of x S.Ct. y (yr)

1.  The citations to the decisions in Supreme Court Reporter (REF KF101 .A32) begin with a volume number, followed by S.Ct., followed by a page number.

       eg. 110 S.Ct. 2412 (1990) - The citation indicates to look in the Supreme Court Reporter, volume 110, on page 2412.

If You Have a Citation to the Decision in the form of x U.S. y (yr)

1.     The first number is the volume number in U.S. Reports in Supreme Court Reporter. Look at the spine of the Supreme Court Reporter to find the volumes of U.S. Reports covered in each. (One volume of U.S. Reports may be covered in two volumes of Supreme Court Reporter.) 

2.     At the beginning of each volume of Supreme Court Reporter is a table entitled "Supreme Court Reporter References" or "Parallel Citation Tables" giving cross references from the page numbers in U.S. Reports to the page numbers in Supreme Court Reporter.

3.     Go to the page and find the case, skipping the case indicated with (mem) memorandum decisions.

       eg. 496 U.S. 325 - The citation in U.S. Reports indicates to look in the Supreme Court Reporter, volume 110, on page 2412.

If You Have the Names of the Parties  A v. B

1. The title of a Supreme Court case is almost always in the form of A v. B. The first name is the plaintiff (the party initiating the case), while the second is the defendant (the party responding).

2. The index to these titles is the Table of Cases, found in the West’s Federal Practice Digest (REF KF127 .W48) under the name of the case, find the citation including the abbreviation S.Ct. Make sure to check different editions, as the case may be indexed in an older edition.

       eg. Alabama v. White - In the Table of Cases of West’s Federal Practice Digest, it lists 110 S.Ct. 2412, 496 US 325 

Reading the Decisions

Summary at the beginning of a decision in the Supreme Court Reporter is information supplied by the publisher, which is not part of the original case report:

  • Headnotes: numbered paragraphs with brief notes on the points covered.  To find other cases that address the same point, search under the same key number in Supreme Court Digest.

The rest of the case report comes from the original text:

  • Syllabus: a summary prepared by the court.
  • Opinion of the Court: the majority opinion, and the only legally binding part.
  • Concurring Opinions: additional opinions of individual members of the majority, if any.
  • Dissent: the opinion of the minority, if any.


How to Shepardize

Interlibrary loan

We can borrow materials for you from other libraries. It's called Interlibrary Loan, and it's a free service that Athens Tech library provides for its faculty, staff and students. If you need any material that you can't find in the library, please email your request to Qian Fang at

UGA library card

Athens Tech library has a reciprocal borrowing agreement with the University of Georgia libraries. If you are ATC faculty, staff or a student in need of use of the UGA libraries, please come by and fill out an application at your home library and we will direct you to get a UGA library card. 

Athens Campus Library: 706.355.5020 | Elbert County: 706.213.2116  | Walton County: 706.552.0909 | Greene County: 706.453.0536
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