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General Legal Research: Cases

Information on basic primary and secondary legal sources.

Finding Case Law

Research in Print

There are numerous print digests that can help you locate court opinions.   In the LRC, we have federal, Pennsylvania, and regional digests.  If you need assistance performing case law research in print, please see a reference librarian.


Electronic Research

Court opinions can be found in various online databases.  A good starting point is looking at commercial databases such as Westlaw or Lexis. 

Many court opinions are also available electronically for FREE on various court websites:

Organization of the Courts

Federal Courts


Federal Courts in Pennsylvania

There are 3 federal district courts in PA: Eastern (Philadelphia); Middle (Harrisburg & Scranton); and Western (Pittsburgh).  District court opinions are published in West's Federal Supplement, currently in the 2nd series (F. Supp. 2d).

Pennsylvania falls under the jurisdiction of the Third Judicial Circuit, which also covers Delaware, New Jersey, and the Virgin Islands.  Circuit Court opinions are published in West's Federal Reporter, currently in the 3rd series (F.3d).


Pennsylvania State Courts

Supreme Court opinions are published in the Pennsylvania State Reports (Pa., 1845-present) and the Atlantic Reporter, currently in its 3rd series (A.3d).

Superior Court opinions are published in the Pennsylvania Superior Court Reports (Pa. Super, 1895-1997) and the Atlantic Reporter, currently in its 3rd series (A.3d).

Commonwealth Court opinions are published in the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Reports (Pa. Commw., 1970-1995) and the Atlantic Reporter, currently in its 3rd series (A.3d).

County Court (Common Pleas Court) opinions are selectively published.  The largest collection can be found in the Pennsylvania District & County Reports, currently in its 5th series (D.&C. 5th)