The first volume of state law reports in the country was produced by Connecticut native Ephraim Kirby in 1789. Kirby was a farmer and served in the Revolutionary War, participating in 19 battles, before returning to his Litchfield home to practice law. Without family connections and considered a troublemaker by Litchfield society for his feud with neighbor Oliver Wolcott, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Kirby was keen to establish a legal reputation for himself.
In 1785, the Connecticut legislature passed a law requiring Superior and Supreme Court judges to issue their decisions in writing. By that time, Kirby had already started compiling cases for his personal use. He thought that American law ought to dissociate itself from English law and that this could only be accomplished if adequate precedents were available from American courts. Kirby’s Reports, or Reports of Cases Adjudged in the Superior Court of the State of Connecticut from the Year 1785 to May 1788 with Some Determinations in the Supreme Court of Errors was thus produced in 1789.
Kirby’s Reports was the first fully developed published reports of American court decisions and marked a point of transition from English to American published reports. However, in spite of the work’s importance, there was initially a lack of subscribers, until the General Assembly placed an order for 350 copies, one to be delivered to the town clerk of each town in the state. This financial backing allowed Kirby to go forward with the printing of the volumes.
For more, see the following articles:
Ephraim Kirby: Pioneer of American Law Reporting, 1789, Alan V. Briceland 16 Am. J. of Legal Hist. 297 (1972)
Day, Root and Kirby, Wesley W. Horton 70 Conn. Bar J. 407 (1996)