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PHI 347 - Library Guide (Downard)

Annenberg Guide

Federal Court abbreviations

United States Supreme Court 
Court  Abbreviation
United States Supreme Court U.S.
United States Court of Appeals 
Court Abbreviation
First Circuit  1st Cir. 
Second Circuit  2d Cir. 
Third Circuit 3d Cir. 
Fourth Circuit 4th Cir.
Fifth Circuit 5th Cir. 
Sixth Circuit 6th Cir. 
Seventh Circuit 7th Cir. 
Eighth Circuit 8th Cir. 
Ninth Circuit 9th Cir. 
Tenth Circuit 10th Cir. 
Eleventh Circuit  11th Cir. 
D.C. Circuit D.C. Cir. 
Federal Circuit Fed. Cir. 
United States District Courts 
Court  Abbreviations 
District of Arizona D. Ariz. 


Sources of Law

Federal Government  State Government
Executive Branch administrative regulations Executive Branch administrative regulations
Legislative Branch statutes Legislative Branch statutes
Judicial Branch court opinions; cases; common law Judicial Branch court opinions; cases; common law  

U.S. Supreme Court

U.S. Court of Appeals (Circuit Courts)

U.S. District Courts (trial court) 


Supreme Court

Intermediate appellate court

Trial courts


Basic Legal Citation

Case Law Reporters

Court opinions are gathered together and published in chronological order in print in volumes called Case Reporters. Even though most cases are now available online, cases are still organized and cited to according to the print reporter system.

Case reporters can be official or unofficial. However, the text of the cases within the reporters are still considered primary sources (apart from any editorial additions in unofficial reporters such as headnotes), regardless of the cases' publication within an official or unofficial reporter.

  • Official Reporters are governmentally approved publications which reproduce the reported cases within a given jurisdiction. Many states still publish their own reporters. 
  • Unofficial Reporters also reproduce the reported cases within a given jurisdiction. However, they are published by commercial publishers (such as Lexis Nexis/NexisUni) and are generally considered unofficial reporters. Unofficial reporters may include editorial enhancements, such as headnotes, in addition to the text of the opinion.
    • headnote is a brief summary of a specific point of law decided in a case.
    • Headnotes appear before the judicial opinion and are generally written by a publisher's editors.
    • Headnotes are a great research tool but are not considered legal authority and should never be cited to.

Example of a headnote:


Reporters frequently have multiple series, which simply means the publisher re-started the volume numbering over again.

For example, the Pacific Reporter Second Series (P.2d) contains volumes 1 through 999; the Pacific Reporter Third Series (N.E.3d) starts over again with volume 1. Cases are not reprinted from one series to the next; each subsequent series contains all new cases.

Federal Reporters 

United States Supreme Court:

  • United States Reports (U.S.) - Official
  • Supreme Court Reporter (S. Ct.) - Unofficial (published by West)
  • United States Supreme Court Reports, Lawyer's Edition (L. Ed. | L. Ed. 2d) - Unofficial (published by Lexis)

United States Court of Appeals:

  • Federal Reporter (F. | F.2d | F.3d) - Official

United States District Courts:

  • Federal Supplement (F. Supp. | F. Supp. 2d) - Official 
  • Federal Appendix (F. App'x) - Official
  • Federal Rules Decisions (F.R.D.) - Official