Written opinions of appellate courts are reported, or published, in court reports. Copies of opinions appear first as “slip opinions” which are copies of the original manuscript filed in the clerk’s office. Slip opinions are then published in “advance sheets” for the court reports; advance sheets are proof pages of a final volume issued as interim pamphlets. Once corrections are made to the advance sheets, the reports are published as permanent bound volumes.
Washington State appellate level slip opinions are available for 90 days online at: http://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions. Appellate opinions dating back to the Washington Territory are available on the Internet via http://www.legalwa.org. Washington opinions may also be accessed at our public terminals through the Westlaw database. Commercial databases such as Lexis and LoisLaw also have a large number of court opinions from many jurisdictions.
Washington Supreme Court
All opinions of the Supreme Court are published. Since 1939, opinions are officially reported in the Washington Reports, 2d series (Wn.2d). Earlier opinions were published in the Washington Reports (Wash.) and Washington Territory Reports (Wash. Terr.). Opinions are also published in the West’s Pacific Reporter (P.), West’s Pacific Reporter, 2d ser. (P.2d) and West’s Pacific Reporter, 3d ser. (P.3d).
Washington Court of Appeals
Published opinions are officially reported in the Washington Appellate Reports (Wn. App.) and are also published in the West’s Pacific Reporter, 2d and 3d series. (P.2d and P.3d). Under state and court rule, opinions must have precedential value to be published; see RCW 2.06.040 and RAP 12.3(d). If an opinion is not designated for publication, it is filed for purposes of the public record and is considered “unpublished.”
United States Supreme Court
Opinions are reported officially in the United States Reports (U.S.). Opinions are also reported in West’s Supreme Court Reporter (S. Ct.) and in United States Reports, L. Ed. (L. Ed.) and United States Reports, L. Ed. 2d (L. Ed. 2d).
Opinions for the United States Supreme Court are first widely available in print in United States Law Week (U.S.L.W.), issues of which are usually received within 7 to 10 working days after the filing of the opinion. Opinions next appear in print in S. Ct. and L. Ed. 2d, usually four to six weeks after the date of filing of the opinion. The advance sheets for the official court reports are not available for some 18 months after the date of filing; however, on-line services such as Westlaw or Lexis may cite to U.S. before the advance sheets are published.
United States Court of Appeals
Not all opinions of the Court of Appeals are published. Under local court rule, each Circuit determines which of its opinions will be published but generally the panel issuing an opinion of the court must determine it has precedential value. Opinions not designated for publication are unpublished memorandums and are filed for purposes of the public record. Opinions are published in West’s Federal Reporter, all series (F., F.2d, and F.3d) and may also be published by other commercial publishers, such as CCH or BNA.
The United States Court of Appeals is comprised of 11 numbered circuits and the Federal Circuit. Washington is in the Ninth Circuit, which also includes Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. The headquarters for the Ninth Circuit is in San Francisco, with division offices in Seattle and Pasadena.
Unlike the other 11 circuits which hear appeals based on geographical jurisdiction, the Federal Circuit handles cases by subject matter jurisdiction only. The Federal Circuit is the successor to the United Court of Customs and Patent Appeals. Earlier opinions of this circuit’s predecessors are also published in other court reports, such as Court of Customs and Patent Appeals Reports.
United States District Courts
Since 1932, opinions of the United States District Courts are published in West’s Federal Supplement and West’s Federal Supplement 2d series (F. Supp. and F. Supp. 2d); earlier opinions were published in West’s Federal Reporter. Opinions may also be published by other commercial publishers, such as CCH or BNA.
Opinions pertaining to court rules, and not published in F.2d, F.3d, F. Supp. or F. Supp. 2d, are published in West’s Federal Rules Decisions, including opinions written by United States magistrates. The Federal Rules Service series is another title which publishes opinions of the federal courts on federal rules and procedures.
There are two District Courts for Washington state: the Western District of Washington, with headquarters in Seattle and a division office in Tacoma; and, the Eastern District of Washington, headquartered in Spokane.
United States Bankruptcy Courts
Bankruptcy courts are specialized courts that are part of United States District Courts. Opinions of the bankruptcy courts are published in several sources, including West’s Bankruptcy Reporter (B.R.) and Bankruptcy Law Reporter [Bankr. L. Rep. (CCH)].
Specialized Federal Courts
United States Court of Federal Claims
Opinions of the United States Court of Federal Claims are published in West’s Federal Claims Reporter (Fed. Cl.) and its predecessors, including West’s United States Claims Court Reporter and the Court of Claims Reports.
United States Court of International Trade
Opinions of the United States Court of International Trade are published in West’s Federal Supplement (F. Supp. and F. Supp. 2d).
United States Court of Veterans Appeals
Opinions of this court are published in West’s Veterans Appeals Reporter (Vet. App.).
Note.—See our “Internet Legal Research Guide” for further information; an interactive version is available at the Library’s website.