So when you're citing a Supreme Court from the 1800s, when the reporters didn't include the date a case was decided but only the term (e.g., "October Term, 1878"), what do you use for a date?
You might go with the term year, though many of the cases will have been decided in the following year; and I wouldn't fault you for it. But while proofreading the second edition of my First Amendment textbook, I noticed that Reynolds v. United States -- the leading Mormon polygamy case -- was cited in one place as 1879 and in another as 1878, and I didn't want to maintain the inconsistency or to just guess which is right. A WESTLAW search revealed that 1273 articles cite it as 1878, and 432 articles as 1879, but 24 Supreme Court cases cite it as 1879, and only 4 as 1878. What should I, law geek that I am, do?
The answer is to look things up in Dates of Supreme Corut Decisions, United States Reports Volumes 2-107, August Term 1791-October Term 1882, prepared by Anne Ashmore of the Supreme Court law library. The answer: The case was handed down in early 1879.