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Researching Texas Law: Cases

Finding Texas Cases

Texas Local & District Courts

Texas district courts are primarily trial courts, and most of their decisions are not published. Some larger counties offer access to their court dockets online; this access may or may not include copies of actual documents. See here for a list of links to districts and counties that have such systems. Bloomberg Law also offers access to trial court dockets from all Texas cities and counties (subscription required). Most of the dockets on Bloomberg provide access to related court documents.

If the document you need isn't online, the most reliable way to obtain it is to request a copy from the clerk of the court that heard the case. See here for an interactive map of district and county courts.

Federal Courts and Texas Appellate Courts, Texas Supreme Court and Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

Print Resources:

  • Cases from Texas' supreme and appellate courts are published in the Southwestern Reporter and the Southwestern Reporter: Texas Cases.
  • Decisions of the federal district courts are published in the Federal Supplement.
  • Decisions of the federal appellate courts are published in the Federal Reporter.
  • Decisions of the United States Supreme Court are published in the U.S. Reports, the U.S. Supreme Court Reports Lawyers Edition, and the Supreme Court Reporter.

Online Resources:

  • Case law is public information and can be published by anyone. What distinguishes various online case law repositories is how many cases are included and how much additional material the repository adds.
  • Westlaw and Lexis Advance provide access to all federal court decisions and all Texas appellate, Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals decisions. Westlaw offers fully annotated versions, while Lexis Advance offers versions with some annotations. Both provide additional research resources such as headnotes and citations. Westlaw and Lexis Advance subscriptions are required to access these databases.
  • Findlaw and Justia provide free full-text access to all federal court decisions and all Texas appellate, Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals decisions. Be careful when using free online sources - it's often hard to tell how complete and current their information is.
  • Texas' courts of last resort and appellate courts offer online access to many of their decisions and related documents through a custom search system, TAMES. Simply restrict your search to the relevant court or courts.
  • Some opinions are designated by the court as "not for publication", also known as unpublished cases. They are not published in the official reporters or the free legal research websites but are available on Westlaw and Lexis Advance. Note that these opinions have no precedential value and may not be used as binding authority; however, under the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, any unpublished opinions issued after 2007 may be cited in briefs to any federal court. Those issued before 2007 may only be cited if local court rules allow.

Finding a Case by Citation

What is a case citation? How do I locate a case from a citation?

The citation to a case includes the reporter volume number, the reporter name and series, and the page number where the case begins. For example:

123 S.W.2d 454

123 = the volume number of the reporter

S.W.2d = the name and series of the reporter

454 = the page number the case starts on

So this citation is found in volume 123 of the Southwestern Reporter, 2d Series, beginning on page 454.  Major state case reporters and their abbreviations are listed at the end of this guide.

You can also use citations to look up a case in Westlaw, Lexis Advance, or a free online legal research site. Most of them will allow you to search by citation, so even if you don't have access to the print reporters, a citation can still get you to the right case quickly.