For topic searches, enter a few keywords in the search box at the top of the page.
If you have a citation or party names, enter as much as you know. For example:
Roe v. Wade
870 F.Supp.2d 1278
CAUTION: Not every code section has “Notes of Decisions”! This can be because the code section is fairly new, or because it simply has not been the significant in any given court case.
The weight and influence of a particular decision is determined by its subsequent history. For example, if a decision was later overruled by a higher court, it lacks value as legal precedent.
Shepard's citation indexes or "citators" track the history of decisions; hence the term "Shephardizing" a case to check its value.
WestlawNext uses its own citator service, known as KeyCite, to accomplish the same thing.
In Westlaw, you may also want to look at the case's History tab and Citing References tab.
Not every court case results in a public, published opinion explaining the court's reasoning. For example, civil and criminal trials at the city or county level normally do not result in published opinions, even if they are high-profile cases. News media reports of these trials are often the only information readily available to the public.
Courts that publish opinions include state Supreme Courts and Courts of Appeals, federal District Courts, the federal Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court. Some specialty courts, such as tax courts and military courts, may also publish decisions.
Different types of courts have jurisdiction over different types of cases. For example, the U.S Supreme Court hears a limited number of cases, most of which involve Constitutional issues or important questions of federal law.
Researchers looking through the history of complex litigation will often find decisions of the court that were published, but have no supporting documentation, generally because they involved rulings on procedural or technical matters. One of the most common of these at the Supreme Court level is abbreviated "Cert. Denied," meaning that the petition for a writ of certoriari was denied. In other words, the court declined to review the case in question.