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A New Volume of U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs at the Law Library of Congress

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This is a guest post by Debbie Keysor, Senior Legal Reference Specialist at the Law Library of Congress.

In February, Andrew Weber pointed out in “The Supreme Court and the Library — Pic of the Week” that the Law Library Reading Room is a U.S. Supreme Court Depository Library.  There are currently 10 Supreme Court Depository Libraries scattered throughout the United States. Outside of the Supreme Court Library itself, the Law Library of Congress has the most comprehensive collections of Supreme Court Records and Briefs dating back to 1832.  In this post, I thought it would be interesting to explain how I prepare the paper copies of the records and briefs filed with the Supreme Court for binding and integrating into our collections.

A brief is a written argument concentrating on legal points and authorities, which is used by the attorney to convey to the court the essential facts of a client’s case and a statement of the questions of law involved. The record on appeal that accompanies the briefs is a compilation of various items involved with the lower courts proceedings, which may include pleadings, motions, trial transcripts, and lower court decisions and opinions.

Records and briefs for the most current terms are kept in the Law Library Reading Room Secured Collection area, where they are shelved by case docket number and maintained until such time that they are ready for binding.  The records and briefs for all U.S. Supreme Court cases are prepared to send to the bindery as soon as the bound U.S. Reports volumes are published. For example, Volume 551 of the U.S. Reports was recently published by the Government Printing Office (GPO) for cases disposed of during the October 2006 Term of the Court.

Briefs are bound in the order that the cases appear for final disposition in the U.S. Reports volumes. This includes citations where a case is affirmed, reversed, remanded, dismissed (with or without an opinion), or where the petition for writs of certiorari, mandamus, prohibition, or habeas corpus are denied.

When the citation to a case in a U.S. Reports volume refers to action by the Court that is not a final determination of a case, the briefs are not bound.  Rather the briefs will be held unbound until the U.S. Supreme Court makes its final disposition on the case and this disposition appears in the U.S. ReportsExamples of this are certiorari granted or probable jurisdiction noted (with no further action involved); motions for a stay on a case already on appeal to the Court; motions involving grants or denial of leave to file various briefs; to participate in oral arguments, etc.

Bound volumes of the Records and Briefs are housed in the Law Library’s closed stacks.  The bound set begins with the January Term 1832 (6 Peters), when the Supreme Court first ordered that the records in cases before it be printed. The briefs were not, as a general rule, printed until the 1854 term.


  1. How about scanning the volumes before binding them?

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