HeinOnline's Tip of the Week: Looking for a case in the U.S. Supreme Court Library?

Searching, Tips and Tricks, U.S. Supreme Court

Are you searching for a case in the U.S. Supreme Court Library in HeinOnline? Whether it’s an older case from the 1800’s or a case from the 21st century, this tip may help you find the case you are looking for without knowing the exact representation of the case name as it appears in the publication.

In the U.S. Supreme Court Library in HeinOnline, case names appear in various formats depending upon the way it was printed in the publication. Case names may contain the Latin phrase “et al.”. Publications may display the case name with the full word, versus, or either of the abbreviations v. or vs. This can make searching for a case name tricky. A few examples of different case names and how they may appear are:

Crawford et al. versus Willing et al. (1803)
Chandler v. Warden Fretag (1954)
Sherman vs. Smith (1861)
Aetna Health Inc., fka Aetna U.S. Healthcare Inc., et al. v. Davila

If you were to know the case name exactly as it appears in the publication, you can build a phrase search and look for the exact match. If you don’t find a match to a case name as you have entered it, then try the tip outlined below.

NOTE: The following tip can be applied primarily when using the Advanced Search option, thus we recommend using the Advanced Search to conduct the query.

Open the U.S. Supreme Court Library and open the Advanced Search option. For our example, we will look for the case name “Crawford et al. versus Willing et al.“.

Tip: Conduct a phrase search.

When searching for a “phrase” you must type the phrase in quotations marks.  The lucene search will look for an exact match to the phrase as you have typed in quotations in the search box. Therefore, if the terms you entered do not appear in the case title exactly as you have typed them, then your search query will not return any results.

For illustration purposes, let’s try entering the following query: enter “Crawford versus Willing” into the search box, click on phrase, and select case title from the drop down menu. This query will return no results because our phrase is not an exact match to the title.

Tip: Conduct a word search

Now let’s modify our query by removing the quotation marks to enable the search query to look for a match to each word within the case title, rather than matching the exact phrase, select case title from the drop down menu and click search. This query will return 1 result, which is an exact match to the case we were looking for.

Tip: Modify the word search to include only key na
mes in the case; remove the versus, v. or vs.

Now let’s say we tried to enter the query as Crawford vs. Willing, not knowing that vs. was spelled out as versus in the case name. This search query will return no results. To get around this, we can remove the vs. from the search query and search simply for the words Crawford and Willing in the case title by entering the following query:

You can also generate this search by inserting the search terms into two separate fields:

These tricks can be applied to any of the examples mentioned above.

Now, let’s try a more recent case. Aetna Health Inc. vs. Davila from 2003. The actual case name as it is published in the U.S. Reports is “Aetna Health Inc., fka Aetna U.S. Healthcare Inc., et al. vs. Davila”. However, let’s assume that we don’t know this when we start our search.

1) Let’s search for an exact match to the phrase “Aetna Health Inc. vs. Davila“, in the case title category. This query returns no results.


2) Remove the quotation marks from the search, and click search again. This query still returns no results.


3) Now let’s try the next trick. Change the vs. to v. and click search again. This will now give us three results.

4) We could also remove the vs. all together and simply search for Aetna Health Davila, click word and search. This will give us the same three results.

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