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Kentucky Legal Research Guide

South Western Reporter

The South Western Reporter series is the official source for Kentucky case law. Consult The Bluebook for a complete listing of historical reporters. 

Kentucky cases are published in the South Western Reporter series and Kentucky DecisionsKentucky Decisions publishes only the opinions and decisions issued by the state courts of Kentucky.  This set retains the pagination and citation style of the South Western Reporter series.

Kentucky Briefs

KY Appellate Court  Briefs 
The website includes briefs submitted to the Kentucky Supreme Court in cases decided since January 1999 and Kentucky Court of Appeals in cases decided since October 2005.   You can search by case name and by docket number.

Database - Kentucky Briefs
Lexis and Westlaw offer selected briefs from 2004 to present.  The briefs databases can be searched by terms and connectors.

Web Sites

Finding Recent Decisions

Finding A Case

Three basic search strategies for locating Kentucky cases! 

I. When You Have a Citation

If you have a legal citation, you will need to correctly identify each component to determine which reporter published you case.  Each citation is typically broken down into three basic components: the volume number; the reporter series; the page number. 

For example:       734 S.W.2d 781

734 → Volume # 734

S.W. → South Western Regional Reports publishing Kentucky cases.

781 → Page # 781

Once you have deciphered the citation, you can use various resources to locate your case. 

  • Court Websites
  • Fee Databases:  Lexis, Westlaw, Casemaker
  • Law Library Print Collection
  • Google Scholar
  • Public Library of Law

II. You Have A Case Name

If you have a case name (names of parties involved), there are several sources available that will enable you to locate the case.

  • Fee Services:  
    LexisNexis and Westlaw allow you to search for cases by party name.

  • Print Sources: 
    West’s Kentucky Digest 2d (KFK 1257.K42) provides a TABLE OF CASES section at the end of the set.
    The TABLE OF CASES lists alphabetically the title of each case, by both Plaintiff’s and Defendant’s names and the volume and page of the reporter.  Once you have that info, you can plug it into a legal database, google, or look it up in the books. 

III. Finding A Case By Topic/Key Words

Locating cases on a particular topic can be a daunting task, especially if you are unfamilar with the area of law.  Here are a few suggestions to help out:

  • Use Secondary Sources to find cases on a particular subject.
  • Use West's Kentucky Digest (KFK 1257.W42) and begin with the DESCRIPTIVE WORD INDEX.
  • Try a keyword search on a free Internet databases, such as Google Scholar or Findlaw.
  • Try a keyword or terms & connector search on Lexis or Westlaw.
  • If you are researching a statute or court rule, you can consult the print version of the statutes.  You can also research statutes and rules using Lexis Advance or Westlaw.

Updating Your Case

Case law, like statues and regulations, is dynamic.  Therefore it's essential to determine whether or not your case is still good law.  In order to ascertain that fact, you will need to make use of a Citator. 

A Citator is a legal reference tool that helps you determine what has happened to your case after it was released.  Basically it takes the document and lists other documents that cite that document. 

The two major legal citators are Shepards on Lexis, and KeyCite on Westlaw.  When using a Citator, you’ll want to pay special attention to the “signal” given for your document.  In KeyCite, the signals are often flags, while in Shepards, the signals are often geometric shapes.  A red signal in both means that your document is in trouble and you need to find out why and how it affects your issue.

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