For years now there have been free versions of state case law
available online, but most collections have had some significant drawbacks. Google
Scholar, for example, has become a go-to source for case law researchers needing free access, but
it doesn’t include KeyNumbers, headnotes, and Shepard’s reports that lawyers
depend upon for their research. Google Scholar also does not include PDFs of the official case reporter,
so one is left wondering how faithful Google's transcription is to the original.
Most significantly, however, Google Scholar’s collection of state cases (like
many other free sources) is
limited to post-1950 caselaw. That’s a pretty big deal when you consider how
many foundational legal principles were established in case law before that
time. For North Carolina, accessing only post-1950 cases means ignoring the preceding 172 years worth of North Carolina cases, most of which are still good law.
So, I’m happy to report some good news for North Carolina legal
researchers! Over the last few months, the full set of North Carolina case law,
from 1778 to present, has been posted online and is available for anyone who wants access. Access is available through a number of websites, none of which
require any subscription or even registration. You can find PDF copies of the North Carolina
Reports (primarily North Carolina Supreme Court cases) through the Office
of North Carolina Appellate Reporter, ncgovdocs.org,
and through HathiTrust.
The North Carolina Court of Appeals
Reports are available through the Office
of North Carolina Appellate Reporter and through ncgovdocs.org.
While these copies still don’t have every feature that users
might want (no West’s KeyNumbers or the headnotes to which those KeyNumbers are
attached, though some volumes do contain separate North Carolina-specific headnotes), access
to PDF copies of the full run of North Carolina and North Carolina Court of Appeals Reports is a big improvement. Bravo to the North Carolina courts and all
others involved in making these cases available!
Posted by David R. Hansen (Dave) on Wed. December 9, 2015 2:59 PM