If you have the name of a case, but not the citation, one method of locating the citation is to use the Table of Cases in a Digest. Digests provide subject access to all reported cases. A digest is both a subject index and a topical outline of case law. Brief summaries followed by citations to the full case are arranged topically. West Publishing is the major publisher of digests that cover all federal and state jurisdictions as well as some topical areas.
All digests published by West are arranged by topic and key number. West has classified the law into more than 400 topics. A key number comprises a topic and a number which, together, refer to a specific subtopic within the broader legal topic. To locate an appropriate key number to conduct a subject search, use the Descriptive Word Index volumes, which accompany each digest, or use a key number already found in a relevant case.
To locate a case citation:
- Determine the approximate date and jurisdiction: e.g., federal or state court in which the case was decided.
Federal Courts: To locate a citation in a federal case, consult Federal or Supreme Court Digests.
- Federal Digest covers the years to 1939
- Modern Federal Practice Digest covers 1939-1961 Federal Practice Digest 2nd, 1961-1975
- Federal Practice Digest 3rd, 1975-1988
- Federal Practice Digest 4th, 1989-present
- West's United States Supreme Court Digest, covers all Supreme Court cases (Supreme Court cases are also in federal digests). The library no longer subscribes to the United States Supreme Court Digest, Lawyer's Edition.
State Courts: The library keeps current state digests for these seven core states: District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Regional Reporters: The library discontinued regional digests in 2006.
2. Once you have selected the appropriate digest, look for the Table of Cases at the end of the set.
- Is the Party plaintiff or defendant?
- The "Table of Cases" lists the plaintiff's name first.
- The "Defendant-Plaintiff Table" lists defendant's name first.
- When you have found the case name, the table will give you the citation.