More on finding Supreme Court cases

Yesterday, The Legal Genealogist tried to ease back into genealogy blogging after traveling in Australia.

It was not the smoothest of transitions.

Starting off with not initially giving the link to the collection of U.S. Supreme Court cases put online by the Library of Congress — the collection can be found here, at https://www.loc.gov/collections/united-states-reports/ — and not mentioning why I like the collection — when you find the case you want, it’s presented immediately as a downloadable PDF file — I probably should have waited a day or two to try to get over the worst of the jetlag.

Sigh…

At any rate, now you have the link — it really is at https://www.loc.gov/collections/united-states-reports/ — and you know why I particularly like the collection.

But there’s still the minor little matter of one of its shortcomings: the collection isn’t completely word-searchable. You need the name of the case or its citation to find a particular case and get it neatly presented in that downloadable PDF format.

So how, reader Susen Lukesh asked, could she use it if she knew that her grandfather had argued a case before the U.S. Supreme Court — but didn’t know the name or citation of the case?

That’s where other Supreme Court case options come into play.

Supreme Court searches

First off, of course, you can simply enter what you do know into your favorite search engine and see what comes up. In Susan’s case, she knew her grandfather’s name — Arthur W. Blackman — and the fact that the case had involved a railroad. She thought that the case was argued before Justice Brandeis. That’s more than enough to search with.

Using, for example, the search terms “Arthur W. Blackman” and “Supreme Court,” just about any search engine produces at least two cases argued by Susan’s grandfather:

Davis v. L.L. Cohen & Co., 268 U.S. 638 (1925), opinion by Justice Sanford

Mellon v. Weiss, 270 U.S. 565 (1926), opinion by Justice Brandeis

And I also could have found either of those using the search engines at other key sites for Supreme Court cases:

• The FindLaw.com free text search for Supreme Court cases here, using the search term “Arthur W. Blackman”

• The Supreme Court search function at Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute here, using the search term “Arthur W. Blackman”

Both of those sites will let me read the cases in full, in HTML format, online.

Then if I wanted an easy way to download the cases, as published in the official U.S. Reports, I’d use those case names — Davis v. L.L. Cohen & Co. and Mellon v. Weiss — or the citations — 268 U.S. 638 or 270 U.S. 565 — I can easily retrieve the downloadable PDF files of just those cases in the Library of Congress U.S. Reports collection.

Oh… and one more option often overlooked: Google Scholar, and its case law search function. By clicking on the radio button beneath the search box for Case law, and then using the same search term “Arthur W. Blackman”, I not only can find the two Supreme Court cases, but also a whole bunch of lower court cases where Susan’s grandfather was one of the attorneys of record.

In other words, even when it comes to court opinions, reasonably exhaustive research usually requires looking at all the options…

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