Skip to main content

Reporters and Digests: Home

The following is a selected guide to print and online resources for federal, regional, and Colorado reporters and digests.

Database Access

Many resources listed in these guides require University of Denver or University of Denver Sturm College of Law IP addresses for access. Other resources, such as Westlaw and LexisNexis, require individual user accounts and passwords.

Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI) Lessons:

Visit CALI Web site by clicking Databases/Indexes on left frame and GO at next screen. Scroll to CALI for case and digest interactive lessons written by law professors and librarians.

Anatomy Of A Case.

How to Find Case Law Using the Digests.

An Introduction to Courts in the Judicial Branch of Government:

Researchers will find more than one court level in the judicial system. For detailed information on federal and state courts with regard to types of cases handled, why there are two court systems in the United States, differences in the structure of federal and state court systems, special courts, jurisdiction, selection of judges, and more, see:

  

 

West's Reporters

Court cases (also known as opinions, or decisions, or judgments) are found in reporters (published cases from the judicial branch of government for a certain jurisdiction arranged in chronological order). Thomson Reuters/West, formerly West Publishing Company, is the largest commercial publisher of cases. This company publishes reporters called the National Reporter System with cases from almost every United States jurisdiction.  Federal cases come from the federal courts and state cases are generated in state courts.

See U.S Supreme Court Reporters and Digests, U.S. Courts of Appeals Reporters and Digests, and U.S. District Reporters and Digests subpages for a list of West federal reporters.

West has divided the country into seven regions for state cases. The reporter for each region collects cases from states within a region and calls them regional reporters. See State Regional Reporters and Digests and Colorado Reporters and Digests subpages for more information.

Official reporters are cases which have been published by directed statute. Reporters published commercially without government sanction are called unofficial reporters. A case published in more than one reporter is called a parallel citation. See Rule 10 in The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation, 19th edition, for guidance.

Each case published by West has five main parts:

Heading:  Find official reporter citation and parallel citations, parties to the case, court jurisdiction, and date of decision.

Synopsis of Decision:  A history of the case written by West editors.

Headnotes: Key point summaries in a case written by West editiors with corresponding topic(s) and key number(s).

Legal Participants:  Counsel for parties and judge(s) who decided the case. 

Court Opinion:  Published in full text and followed by concurring or dissenting opinions. Also features bracketed numbers in text which refer to case headnotes.

West's Digests

West's digests are indexes to reporters organized by 400+ topics and subdivided into thousands of narrower key numbers.

  • Example: Contracts B 355. 

In order for researchers to use the digest properly, it is essential that he/she begin with a topic and key number.

Each case found in a West reporter lists headnotes in numerical order. These headnotes represent issues in the case, but are  not part of the court decision. Note that each headnote has a corresponding topic and key number. Follow these steps when beginning research in a West digest:

Determine Court Jurisdiction:  Locate the proper federal or state digest.

Find Topics and Key Numbers:  If you do not have a topic and key number, start with descriptive-word indexes. If you know name(s) of parties in a case, start with table of cases volumes.

Read Case Summaries:  Become familiar with the history and issues in the case by scrutinzing the summaries.

Update Cases:  Use the topic and key number system to find the most recent cases in digest pocket parts or cumulative paper pamphlets.

Use the following parts in West's digests:

Descriptive Word Indexes:  Start here if you do not have a topic and key number. Check alphabetical indexes under keywords or terms and note that each entry is assigned a certain topic and key number. Next, read digest spines to find the appropriate volume covering your topic and key number. Look in volume for topic and key number, read corresponding headnotes, and look up case citation(s) in reporter(s).

Table of Cases:  Start here if you do not have a topic and key number, but know the name(s) of parties in a case. Read alphabetical digest spines to find the appropriate volume listing your case name. Find the case name which will provide a case citation and a list of topics and key numbers in the case. Look in digest volume for topic and key number, read headnotes, and look up case citation(s) in reporter(s).

Words and Phrases:  Check the alphabetical terms in volumes and locate case citations which define term(s) and provide a list of topics and key numbers in case(s). Look up case citation(s) in reporter(s).

Pocket Parts or Cumulative Paper Pamphlet Updates:  Update with the pocket part in the back of digest volume(s) by checking under the topic(s) and key number(s). Remember whenever updates are too voluminous for pocket parts, West will issue cumulative paper pamphlets.

Quarterly Interim Cumulative Paper Pamphlets: Check the shelf at the end of the digest set for these pamphlets which update either the pocket parts or cumulative paper pamphlets.

American Digest System (Decennial Digests) (1658 to 2006).  (2006: Westminster Law Library subscription cancelled.) Use this comprehensive digest by West to research older cases in federal and state jurisdictions. These Decennial Digests feature the following parts:

Descriptive Word Indexes: Start here if you do not have a topic and key number. Check alphabetical indexes under keywords or terms and note that each entry is assigned a certain topic and key number. Next, read digest spines to find the appropriate volume covering your topic and key number. Look in volume for topic and key number, read headnotes, and look up case citation(s) in reporter(s). 

Table of Cases: Start here if you do not have a topic and key number, but know the name(s) of parties in a case. Read alphabetical digest spines to find the appropriate volume listing the case name. Find the case name which will provide a case citation and a list of topics and key numbers in the case. Look in the digest volume for topic and key number, read headnotes, and look up case citation(s) in reporter(s). Update Cases:  Use LexisNexis Academic or Westlaw public terminals on Level 3.

See also, Words and Phrases: All Judicial Constructions and Definitions of Words and Phrases by The State and Federal Courts from the Earliest Times, Alphabetically Arranged and Indexed. St. Paul, MN: West, 1964-2009. (2009: Westminster Law Library subscription cancelled.) 

United States Supreme Court Digest (West) (2010: Westminster Law Library subscription cancelled.)

Print References:

This research guide has been adapted from content in the above references.

Get Help!

Reference Desk
Contact:
Sturm College of Law
Westminister Law Library
Richetson Law Building
2255 E. Evans Ave, Ste 212
Phone: 303-871-6206
Email: refdesk@law.du.edu
Website / Blog Page