A rugged, whitewater river flowing northward through deep canyons, the New River is among the oldest rivers on the continent. New River Gorge National River in West Virginia encompasses over 70,000 acres of land along the New River, is rich in cultural and natural history, and offers an abundance of scenic and recreational opportunities.
Big Southern Butte is one of two domes rising from a sea of basalt near the center of the eastern Snake River Plain in Idaho. The butte is one of the largest volcanic domes in the world, but at 300,000 years old it is also one of the youngest. Hikers who trek to the 7,550-foot high summit are rewarded with spectacular panoramic views. Photo by Devin Englestead, BLM Upper Snake Wildlife Biologist.
First light at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. Established in November 22, 1939, the refuge has provided a critical stopover and wintering spot for thousands of sandhill cranes, geese and other waterfowl for 75 years. Bosque del Apache's sandhill crane population has multiplied from 18 birds in the 1840s to more than 20,000 birds today. Photo by Kim Hang Dessoliers (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Judicial decisions constitute one of the most important sources of legal authority, along with legislative and regulatory enactments, in our common law system. Even statutes must be read in conjunction with case law which construe the correct application of the legislation. Courts follow the doctrine of precedent, or stare decisis ("let the decision stand"), to create and build upon holdings of law so as to ensure that people in like circumstances of fact are treated alike.
Published court reports provide a permanent record of judicial opinions and provide an easily cited source. The U.S. Department of the Interior Library provides access to judicial decisions by means of a variety of print and electronic search tools. LEXIS and Westlaw are available for departmental research; the Internet provides access to many sources for free. Consult with a Reference Librarian for assistance in locating case law. The text below describes the structure of the American judiciary and its publications.
United States Supreme Court
The United States Supreme Court stands at the head of the judicial branch of government, and it sits as the court of last resort in the Federal court system. Only a small fraction of the cases in which Supreme Court review is sought are accepted for hearing and result in a judicial opinion.
HeinOnline’s U.S. Supreme Court Library offers the official opinions of the Supreme Court from the United States Reports (1754-2003), as well as United States Reports Preliminary Prints (2002-2006), and United States Reports Slip Opinions (2002-date). It also features the Guide to the Early Reports of the Supreme Court of the United States (1790-1874), the Supreme Court Economic Review (1982-2001), and the Supreme Court Review (1960-2000).
The Interior Library maintains two sets of case reporters for U.S. Supreme Court decisions, digests which assist the location of Supreme Court decisions by topic and one topical, loose-leaf service which indexes current Supreme Court cases and issues and provides the first print version of Supreme Court decisions.
United States Supreme Court Reports
Supreme Court Reporter
Digests (Also help to locate all Federal District and Circuit Court decisions):
Modern Federal Practice Digest
Federal Practice Digest 2d
Federal Practice Digest 3d
Federal Practice Digest 4th
Topical Looseleaf Service:
BNA, U.S. Law Week
United States Courts of Appeal and United States District Courts
The Federal court system has grown extensively from the thirteen District Courts and three Circuit Courts created by the Judiciary Act of 1789. The general trial courts in the federal system are still known as the United States District courts, but there are now ninety-four districts with onr or more in each state. In addition, there are several specialized trial courts, such as the Bankruptcy Courts and the Court of Federal Claims.
The intermediate appellate courts in the federal system are the United States Courts of Appeal, which are divide into thirteen circuits. Each of the First through Eleventh Circuits covers several states. The Federal Circuit, which handles patent and customs matters, and the District of Columbia Circuit comprise the remaining circuits.
The Interior Library maintains a variety of holdings in print, microfiche and CD-ROM to provide access to Federal case law as follows:
Federal Cases (District and Circuit Courts, 1789-1880; on microfiche)
Federal Reporter (District and Circuit Courts, 1880-1932, Circuit Courts, 1932-date; print and CD-ROM; 1st series and 2nd series, volumes 1-450, on microfiche)
Federal Supplement (District Courts, 1932-date; print and CD-ROM; volumes 1-200 on microfiche)
Federal Rules Decisions (District Court cases resolving issues under Federal Rules, e.g., FRCP and FRE; print)
State Cases: the National Reporter System
Appellate decisions from the state Supreme Courts and intermediate appellate courts have been collected and published by the West Group (formerly West Publishing) in a set of regional reporters called the National Reporter System. The National Reporter System divides the states into seven regions as described in the table below. The seven regional reporter sets are supplemented by separate reporters for the two most litigious states, California Reporter and New York Supplement.
The table below reflects the states covered by each regional reporter. The Interior Library holds the last six years of the print editions of the Atlantic Reporter, California Reporter, North Eastern Reporter, North Western Reporter, Pacific Reporter, Southern Reporter, Southeastern Reporter, and Southwestern Reporter. The complete sets of these reporters are available on CD-ROM or microfiche in the Library.
States Courts Included
Supreme and intermediate appellate courts in D.C., Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont
Court of Appeals in New York and Supreme Court and intermediate appellate courts in Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts and Ohio
Supreme and intermediate appellate courts in Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin
Supreme and intermediate appellate courts in Alaska, Arizona, California (Sup. Ct. only since 1960), Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming
Supreme and intermediate appellate courts in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia
Supreme and intermediate appellate courts in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi
Supreme and intermediate appellate courts in Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas
Cal. Rptr.; Cal. Rptr.2d
Supreme and intermediate appellate courts of California