State Supreme Courts
Each state has one appellate level court that is considered the ultimate judicial authority in that state. In Illinois, it is the Illinois Supreme Court. Some states have a supreme court, and no appellate court. The Uniform System of Citation, otherwise known as the “Blue Book,” contains an appendix (T.1: United States Jurisdictions) that describes the available reports and citation rules for each jurisdiction. The Blue Book appendix noted above should help identify the court system within unfamiliar jurisdictions. Note also that the technical names of courts may vary. The highest court in Massachusetts is called the Supreme Judicial Court . In New York, the highest court is the Court of Appeals, while the New York Supreme Court is actually a trial court. Texas has two supreme courts: the Supreme Court of Texas handles civil appeals while the Court of Criminal Appeals has jurisdiction over criminal matters. The Texas Supreme Court may overrule the Court of Criminal Appeals, but rarely exercises that jurisdiction.
The Illinois Supreme Court publishes its opinions in Illinois Reports (official - KFI 1245 .A2) - which is the official publication of the Court. Since July 1, 2011 the IL Courts ceased publication of the official IL Reports & has instead been exclusively publishing its official opinions online at its website (Illinois Courts - Government Website) (See Commentary following both IL Supreme Court Rule 6 & IL Supreme Court Rule 23 for further discussion of the reasons for these changes). West (a subsidiary of Thomson Reuters) also publishes the Court’s opinions in both the Northeastern Reporter (unofficial - KF 9999 .N6), and Illinois Decisions (unofficial - KFI 1247 .A34). As mentioned, these are unofficial reports. These parallel reports contain the exact report that the Court issued, usually with the addition of case summaries and headnotes not found in the official reports or in slip opinions.
State Appellate Courts - Interactive Map of IL Appellate Judicial Districts
State Appellate Courts do issue their own opinions and they are published in at least one or more reporters, often in two places. Using Illinois as an example, the Illinois Appellate Court published its opinions in the Illinois Appellate Court Reports (at that time in its 3rd series - KFI 1248 .A2). This was the official publication by the Court. In the Fall of 2014, the Illinois Appellate Court Opinions, ceased publication in print (the last officially printed volume was volume 409 Il. App. 3rd). However, the opinions of the court continue to be available in the Northeastern Reporter (unofficial - KF 9999 .N6), beginning with the second series and in the Illinois Decisions (now in its 2nd series) The Northeastern Reporter is one of several regional reporters published by Thompson/West Group that cover courts in all 50 states and territories and the Illinois Decisions (unofficial - KFI 1247 .A34), is another unofficial reporter of opinions from the Illinois Appellate and Supreme Courts. The most recent IL Appellate Opinions are available at Recent Appellate Court Opinions. Citations for the same case in different reporters are referred to as parallel citations.
Illinois is broken into 5 appellate districts, with Cook County comprising the 1st District. The other four comprise different groupings of counties covering the rest of Illinois . Cases decided by the Appellate Court are only binding within the district in which they were issued. Cases cited from other districts may be persuasive, but they are not binding on the court. The Illinois Supreme Court has the responsibility of resolving any conflicts between Districts. For more information about the Illinois Appellate Courts, see the Illinois Courts web site.
Not all states have official reports at present. Rules of those states usually designate the applicable West reporter for that state as the official source for opinions. The Uniform System of Citation, otherwise known as the “Blue Book,” contains an appendix (T.1: United States Jurisdictions) that describes the available reports and citation rules for each jurisdiction. States may have had official reports at one time and then stopped publishing them. For example, the state of Missouri published official Missouri Supreme Court Reports starting in 1821 (the year of admittance to the Union ) and ceased publication in 1956. Opinions from the Appellate Court started in 1876 and ceased publication in 1954. Opinions issued past these dates are available exclusively in the Southwestern Reporter 2nd Series . About half to two -thirds of the states still publish official reports of one type or another.