Federal Reporter and Federal Supplement

Federal Courts of Appeals are Federal appellate courts just below the United States Supreme Court.  For most Federal cases, these courts are the final courts of appeal.  Decisions of the Federal Courts of Appeals are found in the Federal Reporter.  The Federal Reporter has been published since 1890 and is now in its third series.  Although the Federal Reporter is unofficial, it is the primary source of cases decided by the Federal Courts of Appeals.  The Federal Reporter includes all of these cases.

United State District Courts are the trial courts in the Federal system.  Federal courts include 96 district courts, 13 courts of appeals, a number of specialized courts, and of course, the United States Supreme Court.  The Federal Supplement is unofficial but is also the primary source of selected opinions of the United States district courts.  The district courts usually designate between five and ten percent of their cases for publication in the Federal Supplement.  The first volume of the Federal Supplement was printed in 1933.

Both the Federal Reporter and the Federal Supplement were originally published by West Publishing Company.  Today, these case law reports are published by West, a Thomson Reuters business, the successor to West Publishing.  John W. West founded West Publishing Company in 1872 in St. Paul Minnesota.

The company is famous for starting the National Reporter System which publishes both state and federal court decisions.  All federal and state court appellate cases are included.  The West reporters are still the standard source of state and federal courts cases, used by lawyers and judges in the United States.

There are, of course, other sources of state and federal court opinions.  These cases may also be found in the Westlaw and Lexis databases.  You may locate them by citations, party names, and keywords.  Today there are many publically available websites that are free and provide many, if not most, federal and state appellate court cases.


  1.  Federal Reporter.
  2. Federal Supplement.