Surprising as it may be, of the available free sources for American case law, there may be none better than Google Scholar.
For starters, check out the main search screen – “Case law” is one of two main searches you can do (alongside “Articles). Once you have selected Case law, you get a list of higher-level courts for all 50 states, all Federal Court circuits, and of course, the U.S. Supreme Court.
To give you an idea of the depth of this database, I tried a search in just New York courts for the word “replevin” (my favourite unusual legal term) – and got 730 hits, including 96 from the 1960s, 78 from the 1950s, and four from the 1940s. The same search in CanLII (considered an excellent source for Canadian case law) returns 448 cases.
The site includes citator to see how the current case has been treated in courts, as well as cross-linking to cases cited in the document.
If there is a better free source for American case law, please comment below.
[This tip by Ken Fox originally appeared on the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library’s Legal Sourcery Blog]