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Authorised Law Reports: What are Authorised Reports?

Authorised Law Reports of Australian, New Zealand, Canadian, United Kingdom and United States jurisdictions

Multiple Citations - which version of the case do I use?

Example: Pape v Commissioner of Taxation has the following parallel citations: (2009) 238 CLR 1; (2009) 257 ALR 1; (2009) 83 ALJR 765; (2009) 72 ATR 580; 2009 ATC 20-116; [2009] HCA 23; BC200905831.

In Australia, the following citation convention applies (refer to AGLC3 Rule 2.3.1):

  • if the case is reported in an authorised report series, this version must be used.
  • if the case is reported, but not in an authorised series, the unauthorised report series should be cited in the following order of preference:
    1. generalist report series such as ALR (Australian Law Reports); ALJR (Australian Law Journal Reports)
    2. specialist report series such as A Crim R (Australian Criminal Law Reports); ATR (Australian Taxation Reports)
  • If the case is unreported (Refer to AGLC3 Rule 2.8), the order of preference is:
    1. the medium neutral citation assigned by the Court eg: [2009] HCA 23; or if the case has no medium neutral citation the citation convention used in AGLC3 Rule 2.8.2
    2. the number assigned by eg: LexisNexisAu which assigns a BC number eg: BC200905831
    3. the AustLII version

Note that in the Pape example given above, the order the citations appear is generally the order of citation preference. This is taken from CaseBase on LexisNexisAu. Westlaw Au does not provide this type of order - so may cause confusion.

This order of preference generally applies in other jurisdictions also.

Guide Authors

This Guide is written and maintained by Robin Gardner & Fiona McDowall of the Law Research Service, Melbourne Law School. Please contact robin or Fiona at law-libraryresearch@unimelb.edu.au.

Why use Authorised Reports?

In Australia, if a decision appears in an authorised report series, this is the version that must be cited in student essays and scholarly publications - see Rule 2.3.1 in  AGLC3.

In all Australian courts, there is a convention that the authorised report of a judgment be cited and handed up in court in preference to other versions. In a number of jurisdictions, this convention has been formalised by Practice Direction:

In all other Australian courts, this is a matter of convention only. For example the Commonwealth Law Reports is the authorised series of commonwealth reports accepted in proceedings before the High Court of Australia - this is an unwritten convention and is not contained in any practice direction of the High Court.

What are authorised / official law reports?

Authorised reports contain judgments that have been reviewed by the Judges or Judge's Associate, prior to the publication. They are therefore considered to be accurate record of the judgment. 

What is an unauthorised report series?

Unauthorised reports are a legitimate record of court decisions. In some cases, the unauthorised report may be the only source to locate certain cases, particularly matters from local courts and tribunals covering specialised areas of law.

What is an unreported case?

Unreported judgments are decisions of courts that have not been published in a law report. The decision may not have been published because for a number of reasons, such as the case being too recent, the case does not add any additional authority to the body of case law or it may have been overlooked as it is considered of little significance at the time. 

The Importance of using authorised reports

This short video developed by the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales (ICLR) highlights the importance of using authorised law reports.

How do I find out if a case is in an authorised report series?

For Australian cases, use CASEBASE on LexisNexis AU - type in the party name/s in the Case Name box - the result should show all citations, including reported, unreported and medium neutral. To check if one of the reported versions is in an authorised report series, check the list on the Australia tabs on this Research Guide.

For example: Pape v Commissioner of Taxation has the following parallel citations: (2009) 238 CLR 1(2009) 257 ALR 1(2009) 83 ALJR 765(2009) 72 ATR 580; 2009 ATC 20-116; [2009] HCA 23BC200905831The CLR (Commonwealth Law Reports) is the authorised report series.

The following databases list parallel citations:

How do I cite Law Reports & Other decisions?

At the Melbourne Law School the Australian Guide to Legal Citation 3rd edition (AGLC3) is used. It contains detailed information on the correct citation style for law reports and  unreported decisions from Australian and overseas jurisdictions.

For further information about accessing AGLC3 and for citation styles used in other jurisdictions and from other publishers, please refer to the Citation Guides page.

Abbreviations of Law Report series

The Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations (open access) allows you to search for the meaning of abbreviations for English language legal publications, from the British Isles, the Commonwealth and the United States, including those covering international and comparative law. A wide selection of major foreign language law publications is also included. Publications from over 295 jurisdictions are featured in the Index.
The database mainly covers law reports and law periodicals but some other legal publications are also included.This guide can be searched by abbreviation AND full text title.

The Monash University Legal Abbreviations Guide (open access) is useful, particularly for some Australian material not covered by Cardiff. But this guide only converts abbreviations into full text, so you cannot search the full text title and convert it to the abbreviation.

Casebase on LexisNexisAU uses its own form of abbreviations, some of which cannot be deciphered using either of the above databases. So if you find a case abbreviation in Casebase, to find out what the abbreviation stands for, look at the left-hand menu in Casebase and click on Abbreviations / Subject List.

More comprehensive than any of the above is Donald Raistrick, Index to legal citations and abbreviations (Sweet & Maxwell, 4th ed 2013). This book is in the High Use Collection in the Law Library K112 RAIS.