Library Subject Guides

Law: United States

United States of America

The US legal system is a common law system.  It is a federal government with both federal and state level legislatures and courts. The founding document for the US is The Constitution, which is the “supreme law of the land” and which no law can contradict.  The US compiles its laws into the United States Code, with a new edition published every six years.  The court system is hierarchical with the Supreme Court as the highest federal court.  Each state has at least a trial court and a court of appeal.


Finding case law

When you are referred to a case, you will usually be given the citation. This is the formal method of referring to a reported case and will follow a citation convention. The citation includes the names of the parties before the court, the date and often a report series and page number.

To find a cited case, try the following four-step process:

  1. Examine the citation to identify the abbreviation of the law report series.
  2. Determine the full title of the law report series using the Cardiff index to legal abbreviations.
  3. Search for the full title of the law report series using a "Browse Alphabetically: By Title" search in the Library Catalogue.
  4. Locate the law report online or on the shelf in the Central Library.

Finding US Cases


If you cannot find what you need, please contact the Law Subject Librarians – Theresa Buller and John Arnold.

You can: