Free Case Law From U.S. Supreme Court?

Via Robert Ambrogi’s Law Sites, let’s look at the history of U.S. Supreme Court Case reporting. As mentioned on Ambrogi’s blog in a post titled Free Case Law – and a history lesson, many websites offering free case law date it back to 1754, which is even before the existence of the actual U.S. Supreme Court itself.

Ambrogi writes, this week published my article, Get Your Free Case Law on the Web. No sooner did it appear than I received an e-mail from a reader questioning how several of the sites discussed in the article could claim to have U.S. Supreme Court cases from before there was a Supreme Court. In fact, they claimed to have Supreme Court cases dating back to 1754 — even before the American Revolution.

And the answer is … courtesy of Wikipedia.

None of the decisions appearing in the first volume and most of the second volume of United States Reports are actually decisions of the United States Supreme Court. Instead, they are decisions from various Pennsylvania courts, dating from the colonial period and the first decade after Independence. Alexander Dallas, a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania lawyer and journalist, had been in the business of reporting these cases for newspapers and periodicals. He subsequently began compiling his case reports in a bound volume, which he called “Reports of cases ruled and adjudged in the courts of Pennsylvania, before and since the Revolution”. This would come to be known as the first volume of “Dallas Reports.”

Take a look at the entire post; worth while reading.

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