Law: Finding case law

Understanding a case citation

Individual cases are arranged collectively in series of Law Reports. To locate a case you need to be able to understand the citation. Here is a sample Citation:

Ansett Transport Industries (Operations) Pty Ltd v Wardley (1980) 142 CLR 237

 

The different parts of the Citation are explained below:

Ansett Transport Industries
(Operations) Pty Ltd v Wardley

Parties contesting the case

1980

Year the case was reported

142

Volume of the law reports in which the case was reported

CLR

Abbreviation for the law report series in which the case can be
found. 

CLR stands for Commonwealth Law Reports.

237

Page on which the case can be found

 

TIP If you cannot identify an abbreviation in a case there are a number of abbreviation lists available online (see the links in legal abbreviations and citations below)

Understanding case citators

CPD interactive have created a video 'Case Citators' in their How to Really be a Lawyer series.

Natalie Wieland gives a brief overview of some of the differences between databases on the market and in particular the case citators including CaseBase, FirstPoint, LawCite and Jade Barnet.

A case citator provides a summary of the case, and importantly tells us what has happened since the case. Specifically, have the courts continued to follow the principal of law from a specific case?

You need to be aware that each product has its positive points and limitations. For example, the scope of the service – particularly in relation to timeframe, and to the editor’s selection of cases listed. Natalie discusses when you may use one resource over another, and gives some examples.

video provided courtesy of CPD interactive

Legal Research Workshop

dh003i, 'Scales of Justice (Colored Glassy Effect Derivative)', Creative Commons Licence, Image Source: openclipart.org

For more info try the Legal Research Workshop which has been designed to teach you basic legal research skills using online (primarily Australian) resources available through the UniSA Library.

*Authentication is required*

 

Not sure where to start?

Not sure what kind of resources you need, or where to find them? 

Our Legal Research flowcharts will help you to decide which resources are suitable for the task you are doing.

How to:  Begin Legal Research: Online Resources

How to:  Begin Legal Research: Print Resources
Image Source: University of South Australia Library

Case law databases

Sacha Fernandez 'Sydney Opera House and Sydney Skyline', CC Licence: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, Image Source: Flickr

Nicholas Raymond, 'World Map - Abstract Acrylic', CC Licence: CC BY 2.0, Image Source: Flickr

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Recent cases

Rodney Campbell 'Adelaide Blues', CC Licence: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, Image source: Flickr

[Alex Proimos, 'High Court of Australia', CC Licence: CC BY-NC 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/), Image Source: flickr (http://www.flickr.com/photos/34120957@N04/6769096715/)]

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Authorised and Unauthorised Reports

For some law reports, the judge who wrote the decision also checks the details of the case before it is published. These cases are known as "authorised" reports.Cases from law reports where the judgment is not checked by the judge before publication can still be used in a court of law and in your assignment. These are commonly referred to as "unauthorised" reports.

Authorised report series Abbreviation Other report series (unauthorised) Abbreviation
Commonwealth Law Reports   CLR Federal Law Reports   FLR
Federal Court Reports   FCR Australian Law Journal Reports   ALJR
Northern Territory Law Reports   NTLR Australian Law Reports   ALR
New South Wales Law Reports   NSWLR Australian Company Law Cases   ACLS
Victorian Reports   VR Australian Family Law Cases   AFLC
South Australian State Reports   SASR Australian Trade Practices Reports   ATPR
Queensland Reports   Qd R Australian Trade Practices Reports   ATPR
Western Australian Reports   WAR    
Tasmanian Reports   Tas R    
Administrative Law Decisions   ALD    
Commonwealth Arbitration Reports   CAR    

 

For more information on authorised and unauthorised reports see the Legal Research Workshop - Finding Case Law (you will need to login)