Case Law Research
Published vs. Unpublished
In previous pages, we learned how cases are organized into various reporters. We also looked at the components of a case published in a reporter. However, not every single case is published in a reporter. Court rules decide which cases can be published and used as legal precedent.
- All Supreme Court cases (both federal and state) are published
- Some intermediate appellate court cases (both federal and state) are published. Some are not.
- Some federal district court cases are published
- Most states, including Nevada, do not publish state trial court cases
How Do I Know If a Case is Published or Not?
An unpublished case (both federal and state) has a notice at the top that says it is not for publication
- You will see such a notice whether you locate the case from the court's website or Westlaw/Lexis Advance
- Since an unpublished case does not have a reporter citation (e.g. 280 F.3d 1027), Westlaw and Lexis provide an unique identifier that serves as a substitute for a reporter citation. You can type 2016 WL 3316618 in the search box to retrieve the following unpublished 7th Circuit case on Westlaw.
I want to cite a 9th Circuit case decided a few days ago. Since it does NOT have the not-for-publication notice, I know it will be published in a reporter in near future. Can I cite this case in my brief?
- A recent published case that has yet to be added to a reporter is known as a slip opinion. You may cite a slip opinion in your brief in accordance with Bluebook Rule B10.1.4 and Rule 10.8.1(b).
Why Do We Care Whether a Case is Published or Not?
- A published case is a mandatory authority for the court and the lower courts in its jurisdiction
- An unpublished case is NOT a binding authority. In some cases, it can be used as a persuasive authority. Check your jurisdiction's court rules to see if you may cite an unpublished case in your brief
- Do not cite an unpublished case UNLESS
- There is no published case on point AND
- Your jurisdiction's court rules allow you to cite it as a persuasive authority
- Last Updated: Feb 15, 2022 11:54 AM
- URL: https://law-unlv.libguides.com/caselaw
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