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Free Legal Resources : California Cases

How California Cases Are Published

Cases are published in books called reporters. Although today cases are usually accessed online, case citations still refer to print reporters.

For example, Perez v. Sharp, 32 Cal. 2d 711, 198 P.2d 17 (1948) means the case begins on page 711, volume 32, of the second edition of the California Reports (Cal. 2d) and on page 17, volume 198, of the second edition of the Pacific Reporter (P.2d)

Almost all California cases are published in two competing sets of reporters:

  • Westlaw publishes California cases in the unofficial California Reporter and Pacific Reporter.
  • Lexis holds the contract to publish California's official reporters, the California Reports and California Appellate Reports, published as shown below:

 Chart showing names, abbreviations, and publishing dates of California reporters. Supreme Court cases are reported in California Reports, abbreviated Cal. from 1850, Cal. 2d from 1934, Cal. 3d from 1969, and Cal. 4th from 1991. Appellate cases are reported in California Appellate Reports, abbreviated Cal. App. from 1905, Cal. App. 2d from 1934, Cal. App. 3d from 1969, and Cal. App. 4th from 1991.

California Case Law

Cases are decisions made by courts in lawsuits or criminal prosecutions. Cases interpret and apply statutes and regulations and may also create and refine "common law" (laws created solely by the courts.)

Sources of California cases include:

California Dockets and Court Documents

Dockets are lists of court documents filed by the parties in a case. Most California state court dockets are provided for free on the courts' websites but obtaining the underlying court documents usually requires purchasing the documents from the website or even visiting the courthouse in person. However, a few projects seek to make California court documents free online. 

Sources of California dockets and court documents include: