Online Access to North Carolina Case Law, 1778-present

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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,, and through HathiTrust.  The North Carolina Court of Appeals Reports are available through the Office of North Carolina Appellate Reporter and through  

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
Categories: Uncategorized

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