U, United States Reports,
Edited By: Kermit L. Hall, James W. Ely Jr., Joel B. Grossman
Edited By: Kermit L. Hall
United States Reports,
the official edition of the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States, began with a volume of decisions prepared and published by Alexander J. *Dallas, a Philadelphia lawyer and occasional journalist and editor. The volume, entitled Reports of Cases Ruled and Adjudged in the Courts of Pennsylvania, Before and Since the Revolution, was printed in Philadelphia by Thomas Bradford in 1790. Paradoxically, the volume contained only Pennsylvania decisions since the federal Supreme Court had not yet decided any cases. The next three volumes of reports by Dallas (in 1798, 1799, and 1807, respectively) included decisions of the Supreme Court as well as of the *lower federal courts and Pennsylvania courts. The 1790 volume has long been treated as the first of a series that later became known as the U.S. Reports.
Although the position of *reporter of the Supreme Court was not authorized until an 1817 act of Congress provided for the post with an annual salary, the earlier reports were issued with the Court’s approval. Since the early reports, following English tradition, were known and cited by the names of their respective reporters, they are called nominative or nominate reports. Court-appointed reporters have continued to prepare the decisions for publication, although only the first ninety volumes of the series are still designated by the reporter’s name, as listed in Table 1.
The U.S. Reports were issued by private publishers until 1922 when the U.S. Government Printing Office assumed publication, beginning with volume 257 covering the October term, 1921.
Prior to the issuance of each bound volume of the United States Reports, the court’s decisions appear in two temporary, official forms: the *slip decision, in which each decision appears separately in an individually paginated pamphlet, and the preliminary print, an *advance sheet format that groups a number of decisions in pamphlets with continuous (and permanent) pagination through the three pamphlets that currently make up each bound volume. In 1990, through an experimental program called “Project Hermes,” the Court began providing electronic access to its decisions to a variety of organizations and publishers on the same day the decision is issued.
Virtually all of the commercial forms of publication of the Court’s decisions (e.g., *Lawyers’ Edition; *LEXIS; *Supreme Court Reporter; *United States Law Week; and *WESTLAW) offer faster and more sophisticated access than the U.S. Reports. Nevertheless, the official report must be cited in briefs and memoranda to the Court and is traditionally given first in citations to decisions.
See also reporting of opinions.
Morris L. Cohen