First U.S. Reports Opinion Not Exactly a Blockbuster

United States ReportsHere’s a trivia question for lawyers and law students.

Question: What was the very first opinion issued in the U.S. Reports case reporter; that is, the opinion claiming that coveted number one slot of “1 U.S. 1” as a citation?

Answer:  Well, it’s a bit of a letdown.  You’d think they’d want to start with a bang, something Marbury-esque.  But no, here’s the first case in the U.S. Reports:

The Lessee of Hyam and others

April Term, 1759.

1 U.S. 1, 1 Dall. 1, 1759 WL 20 (Pa.), 1 L.Ed. 11

Copy of a Deed inrolled in the King’s Bench in England, proved before the Lord Mayor of London to be a true one; allowed to be given in Evidence to a Jury to support a Title to Lands in this Province.*

*11 mod. 2 c. 2.

Well, at least it had a footnote.

4 comments to First U.S. Reports Opinion Not Exactly a Blockbuster

  • Coleen Barger

    It wasn’t decided by the Supreme Court, either! This decision is from the Provincial Court of Pennsylvania, but it had the good fortune to be the first case put into United States Reports.

    • Andrew J. McClurg

      Thanks for the clarification, Professor Barger.

    • BMS

      In fact, nothing in 1 U.S. is from the Supreme Court. The first four volumes of the U.S. Reports are reprints of Dallas’s Reports, which covered Pennsylvania cases of a certain era and the earliest U.S. Supreme Court cases. Since the first two volumes of Dallas are mostly Pennsylvania cases, so are the first two volumes of U.S.

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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