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Government Information (US)

About Federal Judiciary

The Federal Judiciary is comprised of the Supreme Court, the Circuit Courts of Appeal and the District Courts.  Also included are special courts of limited jurisdiction for bankruptcy cases and tax cases as well as others.


The U.S. Supreme Court has the final say over matters of federal law.  It is the highest court of appeal over matters it chooses to review.  It is presided over by a chief justice and eight associate justices.  They hold life tenure. 


Trial courts of general jurisdiction are the federal district courts. Appeals of adverse decisions are made to the appellate courts of appeal also called federal circuit courts. The circuit court does not retry the facts of the case, but rather rules on the proper application of law or procedure by the district court. Circuit court decisions are published, but only noteworthy district court decisions are reported. Published decisions are found in legal research databases such as Westlaw and Lexis. 

Federal Judiciary Resources

Supreme Court Resources

Finding Case Law

At the Lauinger Library, the only place to find comprehensive federal (and state) case law is Nexis Uni and HeinOnline.  You should find a case cited in a secondary source; and then locate the case in Nexis Uni to read it full-text.   At the Georgetown Law Center, federal and state cases may be retrieved via paper copy in the federal, regional, and state reporters; or they may be found via subscription access to Westlaw or Lexis. To determine a case's status, i.e. whether it has been upheld, modified, or reversed, use the Shepherd's Citations service, which is also found in Nexis Uni.

Legal resources via Internet

Legal resources on the Web are deep, accessible and mostly free.  Keep in mind, however, that these sites lack the structure found in databases of commercial sources such as HeinOnline.  Also, beware of search procedures and differences in standardized phrasing from one online site to another.  Web sites are useful mostly in locating federal and state primary sources: bills, statutes, cases, regulations, attorney general opinions, et cetera. 

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