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law journals, law reports, legal information, reviews of law books, nineteenth american legal history


In the early nineteenth century, both general literary periodicals and the first American legal journals often featured reviews of new volumes of U.S. Supreme Court and state court opinions, suggesting their importance not only to lawyers seeking the latest cases, but to members of the public. The reviews contributed to public discourse through comments on issues raised in the cases and the quality of the reporting, and were valued as forums for commentary on the law and its role in American society, particularly during debates on codification and the future of the common law in the 1820s. James Kent saw the reports as worthy of study by scholars of taste and literature, or to be read for their drama and displays of great feeling. By the 1840s fewer lengthy reviews of reports were published in the journals, but shorter reviews continued in the years prior to and after the Civil War; they largely disappeared with the emergence of West’s National Reporter System and other privately published reporters in the 1880s. This paper examines role and influences of the reviews in earlier decades of the century.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Legal literature—Publishing, Classification, Legal research, Law reports digests etc.