West American Digest System - How The Digest System Works

How The Digest System Works

Each case published in a West reporter is evaluated by an editor who identifies the points of law cited or explained in the case. The editor places the summaries of the points of law covered in the case at the beginning of the case. These summaries are usually a paragraph long, and are called headnotes. Each headnote is then assigned a topic and key number. The headnotes are arranged according to their topic and key number in multi-volume sets of books called Digests. A digest serves as a subject index to the case law published in West reporters. Headnotes are merely editorial guides to the points of law discussed or used in the cases, and the headnotes themselves are not legal authority.

West publishes West's Analysis of American Law, which is a complete guide to the topic and key number system, and it is revised periodically.

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