US Supreme Court Case Footnote

I'm working on a genealogy report where an ancestor's divorce made it all the way to the US Supreme court. I'd like to site the case in my report. The case is available online in several formats which include the background and the justice's opinion. Is it acceptable to cite the website or do I need to locate a law library and obtain a citation from a Supreme Court journal? The case citation is shorter than the examples for state supreme court cases noted in "Evidence Explained"--is there a format for citing US Supreme court cases? Am Am I over thinking this because a citation of the lower court's case which created the divorce decree would suffice? 

Submitted byEEon Fri, 06/26/2020 - 17:21

VelvetWood, the short-form citation you found apparently is the legal style citation. For background here, please read EE 13.1 through 13.3.

Yes, of course, you can cite the case from where ever you found it. Beyond that, this discussion is down to a series of ifs:

  • If the website you found provides the full case, you do not need to locate it elsewhere.
  • If the website you found provides image copies of the Supreme Court reporter or digest (see EE 13.18–13.19), you would cite those image copies and the website where you found it.
  • If the website you used provides only a database entry, rather than the full opinion published in the case reporter, then you would want to access the actual case reporter and get full details from there—not just for a citation but because, research wise, you would need full details from the case. 
  • If you now have the opinion from the reporter or digest, the next step would be to obtain the full case from Supreme Court archives.

I cannot be more specific than this because your query did not give specifics to work with. Situations can vary from one web provider to the other. Without the site's ID and a sample of exactly what you have, the possibility always exists that there are other issues to consider.


Submitted byVelvetWoodon Sat, 06/27/2020 - 10:54

Thank you! I actually appreciate a non-specific answer because it helps more with understanding the process!