The Federal Appendix is a case law reporter published by West Publishing. It publishes judicial opinions of the United States courts of appeals that have not been expressly selected or designated for publication. Such "unpublished" cases are ostensibly without value as precedent. However, the Supreme Court made a change to the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure in 2006. Now, Rule 32.1 says that federal circuit courts are not allowed to prohibit the citation of unpublished opinions issued on or after January 1, 2007.
The Federal Appendix organizes court opinions within each volume by the date of the decision, and includes the full text of the court's opinion. West editors add headnotes that summarize key principles of law in the cases, and Key Numbers that classify the decisions by topic within the West American Digest System.
However, unpublished opinions tend to be extremely concise and cryptic (especially when written by judges who are on record as disliking Rule 32.1), which limits their usefulness as precedent. They often avoid a full explanation of the facts and law (as is traditionally found in full-length appellate opinions) by reciting that such things are already known to the parties, which makes it difficult for anyone unfamiliar with the entire file for that particular case to discern the exact contours of the court's holdings in the opinion.
Over 350 hardbound volumes of the Federal Appendix have been issued since it began publication in 2001. Westlaw abbreviates citations to the Federal Appendix as Fed. Appx. The Bluebook calls for citations to the Federal Appendix to be abbreviated as F. App'x.
There is debate within the legal community about the desirability of designating certain judicial opinions as without precedential value.
- Official website
- Bluebook, 19th Ed., T.1, p. 216
- See Scott E. Gant, "Missing the Forest for a Tree: Unpublished Opinions and New Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 32.1," 47 Boston College Law Review 705 (2006)
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