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California Case Materials Checklist: Finding California Cases

This guide is intended to familiarize the user with the California Court structure, publication of California decisions, and resources for finding the text of California cases. Primary sources are listed as well as important Internet links.
URL: http://libguides.law.ucla.edu/californiacases

Reporter Sets

Supreme Court cases are published in at least two, and sometimes three, recognized reporter sets: the official reporter (California Reports) and two West reporters (Pacific Reporter and California Reporter).  

Courts of Appeal cases are published in the official reporter (California Appellate Reports) and a West reporter set (California Reporter).

Case Reporters - Official

  1. Official California Reports, Bancroft-Whitney (now LexisNexis), 1850 - 1934 (Cal.); 2nd series, 1934 -1969 (Cal. 2d); 3rd series, 1969 - 1991 (Cal. 3d); 4th series, 1991 – present (Cal. 4th).

    Full text opinions of California Supreme Court Cases.  Includes List of Judges, Table of Cases Reported, Table of Citations (Constitution, Statutes, Codes, Rules), and Subject Matter Table.

    Library: KFC 45 A21 - KFC 45 A24 (Level 2)
       
  2. Official California Appellate Reports, Bancroft-Whitney (now LexisNexis), 1905 - 1934 (Cal. App.); 2nd series, 1934-1969 (Cal. App. 2d); 3rd series, 1969 - 1991 (Cal. App. 3d); 4th series, 1991 – present (Cal. App. 4th).

    Opinions of the California Courts of Appeal and Appellate Departments of the Superior Courts. Includes List of Judges, Table of Cases Reported, Table of Citations (Constitutions, Statutes, Codes, Rules), and Subject Matter Table.

    Library: KFC 48 A212 (Level 2)

  3. California Official Reports (Advance Sheets)

    Opinions of the California Supreme Court, Courts of Appeal, and Appellate Departments of Superior Courts which have not yet appeared in the bound volumes listed above.  Grey striped pages are Supreme Court cases; white pages are Courts of Appeal and Appellate Departments of Superior Court cases (separately paginated).  Includes Cumulative Subsequent History Tables (important for listing depublished cases—see the Law Library Research Guide, Depublication of California Court of Appeal Decisions).

    Library: KFC 45 A24 (Level 2)

Case Reporters - Unofficial

  1. West’s California Reporter, 1959 - 1991 (Cal. Rptr.); 2nd series, 1991 – 2003 (Cal. Rptr. 2d); 3rd series, 2003-present (Cal.Rptr.3d).

    Opinions of the Supreme Court, Courts of Appeal, and Appellate Departments of the Superior Courts.  Includes list of Judges and Officers of the Courts, Table of Cases Reported, Words and Phrases, and Key Number Digest.

    Library: KFC 47 C32 (Level 2)

  2. West’s California Reporter (Advance Sheets).
    Recent opinions of Supreme Court, Courts of Appeal, and Appellate Departments of the Superior Courts that have not yet appeared in the bound volumes of West’s California Reporter.  Includes additional information, such as proposed amendments to court rules (Modifications); Parallel Citation Tables; Case History Table; and Rehearing, Hearing, and Review Tables (important for listing cases “not officially published” - see the Law Library Research Guide, Depublication of California Court of Appeal Decisions).

    Library: KFC 47 C32 (Level 2)

  3. West’s Pacific Reporter, West, 1883-1931 (P.); 2nd series 1931–2000 (P. 2d); 3rd series 2000– present (P. 3d)

    Opinions from the California Supreme Court, Courts of Appeal, and Appellate Departments of Superior Court from 1953-1959.  Beginning in 1959, only Supreme Court cases are included (Courts of Appeal and Appellate Departments of Superior Court Cases appear in West’s California Reporter from 1959). This set also includes cases from the states of Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawai’i, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Includes Table of Cases Reported, Words and Phrases, and Key Number Digest.

    Library:

    KF 135 P2 P32  (North Reading Room) 

     
  4. Los Angeles Daily Journal Daily Appellate Report (D.A.R.), an insert to the Los Angeles Daily Journal.

    Publishes the full text of opinions from the California Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal. Also includes opinions of the United States Supreme Court, 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Cases, and 9th Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel.  This is the earliest available printed version of these cases.

    Library: Request at Circulation Desk – Closed Reserve

  5. Lexis and Westlaw

    California cases are available through Lexis and Westlaw.  Individual passwords are needed to access these online databases. Cases may become available the same day of decision or may take up to three weeks to appear, depending on the court.

    Lexis:  Browse > Sources > By Category > Cases > CA Supreme Court Cases from 1850; CA Courts of Appeal Cases from 1905
    Westlaw:  select Cases and then California (includes Supreme Court cases from 1850; Appellate Court cases from 1905)

  6. Internet

    • Judicial Branch of California

      The official California Courts web site provides “slip opinions” from the California Courts of Appeal and the California Supreme Court issued within the last 120 days.  Opinions are available as both Word (DOC) and Adobe Acrobat (PDF) documents. A searchable archive of published opinions from 1850 to present is also available.

    • Findlaw.com California cases

      Searchable database of California cases from 1934 to the present. Users must register in order to view the cases.
       

Case Digests

The following digests may be used to find California cases by topic. (If you already have the name of the case you want to find, see Law Library Research Guide How to Find a Case by Name.) Each digest gives both official and unofficial citations.  However, the topic numbers used in the California Digest of Official Reports correspond to those used in the official reporters; the key numbers used in the West digests correspond to those used in West publications.  The topic numbers do not transfer between publishers. (See also Law Library Research Guide, How to Find a Case by Topic).

  1. West’s California Digest, covers 1850 - 1950 (KFC 57 1850 W4) (Level 2);
    West’s California Digest 2d, 1950 - present (KFC 57 1950 W4) (Level 2).

  2. McKinney’s New California Digest, 1850 - 1974 (KFC 57 1850 M3) (Level 2);
    McKinney’s California Digest of Official Reports, 3d & 4th, 1974 - 2003. (KFC 57 1969 C3) (Level 2)

    NOTE:  McKinney’s and the Digest of Official Reports are no longer being published, but have been left on the shelves for researching cases during the time periods they cover.

  3. West’s Pacific Digest, West, 1962 - present  KF 135 P26 W48 1990 (Level 1–North Reading Room).