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U.S. Supreme Court Research Guide: Researching Older Cases

Older Supreme Court Cases

Various elements affect the availability of records from older Supreme Court cases. Not only have preservation methods changed, but the rules regarding what required preservation have evolved. 

This page describes the available records of older Supreme Court cases and commentary, and where such records can be located. Published Supreme Court opinions since 1790 are available in Reporters as described on the General Research page of this Guide.


The following collections contain early Supreme Court materials beyond the published opinions. For guidance navigating these files, see Records and Briefs on the page General Research in this guide.

Secondary Sources

Rose's Notes

Rose’s Notes is like an early, more informative Shepard’s for Supreme Court Cases. The Supreme Court cases are cited in chronological order. Under each case are small summaries in bold-faced type of the main legal principles the case addresses – much like headnotes. Under each “headnote” are listed brief case annotations about the other cases that have cited the Supreme Court case with reference to the topic addressed in that headnote.

HeinOnline U.S. Supreme Court Library

Some of the secondary sources for older Supreme Court cases in this collection include:

  • One copy of every pamphlet of Rules of the Supreme Court of the United States included in the Library of the U.S. Supreme Court, dating back to 1790.
  • Supreme Court Reporter (periodical, 1882-1923)
  • Books on the Court dating back to 1800

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A Note on Supreme Court Citations

Early Supreme Court Reporter citations included the name of the publication's editor or "reporter." See the Glossary and Reference page of this Guide for more information.