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Australian Cases, Legislation and Law Reform: Case Law

Resources for finding cases, legislation and law reform information all Australian jurisdictions

High Court of Australia, Canberra

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High Court Bulletin

The High Court Bulletin is compiled monthly, from February to December, after each Court sitting and contains, as at the date of each issue:

1: CASES HANDED DOWN
2: CASES RESERVED
3: ORIGINAL JURISDICTION
4: SPECIAL LEAVE GRANTED
5: CASES NOT PROCEEDING OR VACATED
6: SPECIAL LEAVE REFUSED

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Finding cases pending in Commonwealth courts

The High Court of Australia

See the High Court of Australia's website for information on submissions and special leave applications

Federal Courts

Federal Law Search (hosted by the Commonwealth Courts Portal) provides information on cases initiated in the Federal Court of Australia and in the federal law jurisdiction of the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia. The database is updated in real time and includes all cases that have commenced since 1 January 1984.

Commonwealth Sentencing Database

Commonwealth Sentencing Database

The purpose of the Commonwealth Sentencing Database is to provide judicial officers and other users with rapid and easy access to information about sentencing for Commonwealth offences.

High Court Blog

The Melbourne Law School High Court Blog aims to provide a public forum for discussion of the judicial decisions of the High Court of Australia.

This blog will provide commentary on and analysis of recent High Court decisions, general information about the Court, as well as marking significant activities and events at the Court. It is a forum for discussion of decisions of the Court and a resource for understanding the operation of the Court.

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Finding a case when you have a full or partial citation

When you know the full citation, or partial information such as the name of at least one of the parties, the jurisdiction or court - there are several subscription and free caselaw online databases which we recommend using to find the case:

  • LexisNexisAU (Melbourne Uni staff and students only) - use the cases tab and type eg: the parties' names into the Case Name box.
  • WestlawAU (Melbourne Uni staff and students only) - use the cases tab, then select Advanced Search and type eg: the parties into the Case Title/Part Name box.
  • AustLII (free) - simply type the case name into the search box at the top of the screen eg: dalgarno v hannah (there is no need for any punctuation)
  • JADE (free) - simply type the case name into the search box at the top of the screen eg: chan v zaccharia (there is no need for any punctuation - you will see suggestions as you type)

Finding subsequent consideration of a case

Case citators / noting up services will help you determine whether any later cases have considered your case and which earlier cases your case has considered.

The citators listed below will all reveal slightly different results so to search comprehensively we recommend using all of them. 

Subscription citators 

The subscription services on WestlawAU and LexisNexisAU have the distinct advantage of providing information on how your case has been treated in subsequent cases ie: whether it has been distinguished, followed, overruled etc.  

CaseBase (LexisNexis AU)

FirstPoint (WestlawAU)

Free citators / noting up services 

AustLII Noteup - when you have located the case you are looking for, the Noteup feature searches for all materials which refer to the current case. This will display all other cases which refer to this case and pinpoints to the relevant paragraphs in the citing cases.

Jade's Case Trace is a citator feature that appears on the right of the page of every case in JADE - it includes links to the full text of cases your case has cited and to cases which have cited your case - and pinpoints the relevant paragraph in the citing cases.

Subsequent consideration of Australian cases in worldwide cases 

LawCite - is an automatically generated global case citator, which gathers information from all the 'LIIs" worldwide, so that you see where your case is cited in cases in other jurisdictions. It also lists free and subscription journal articles and law reform reports which discuss your case, and legislation which is cited in your case. Cases found in AustLII all have LawCite link beside the case which links straight to the LawCite record.

Finding cases considering legislation

  • CaseBase (LexisNexis AU) - use the 'Act/Regulation' field to search for legislation judicially considered. Use the 'Provision' field to search for a legislative provision.  
  • FirstPoint (Westlaw AU) - use the ‘Legislation Cited (Title)' field and enter the name of the legislation as a phrase eg. “Trade Practices Act 1974".  Use the 'Legislation Cited (Provision)' field to search for a specific section of the legislation.
  • LawOne (TimeBase) - once you have found the legislation you are looking for cases on, select the 'Key info' box to the right of the screen.  Under the heading 'Related instruments' there is a link called 'Cases', click on this and a list of cases will appear which you can sort by year or court. You can also do this at a legislation provision level - at the provision level a box titled 'Cases' will appear next to the box 'Key info'.  
  • LawCite (AustLII) - use the field of the search form - enter the name of the legislation and the section if relevant. 
  • JADE - use the 'Citator' option, enter your search terms (legislation name and if relevant, the section) and press search. This will give you a list of cases that have cited the legislation you have searched for 

Finding journal articles discussing a case

We recommend:

The INFORMIT databases, particularly AGIS (law articles) and the HUMANITIES & SOCIAL SCIENCES COLLECTION (Melb Uni staff & students only).

  • Select the databases
  • Type the parties' names into the search box (eg: Koowarta v Bjelke-Petersen )
  • select Legal Cases (CASES) from the drop down Field menu

AustLII Journals (free)

  • Type the parties' names into the search box in this way: Koowarta  near  Bjelke-Petersen (using a 'v' between the party names will only find articles with the parties in the title - these will be highly relevant but you will miss other articles which discuss the case)
  • the most relevant articles will be listed first.
  • you can click on the context button to locate all references to the case in the article.

Finding cases on a particular topic

1. Start with secondary sources, which will cite significant cases on the topic. 

2. Find relevant journal articles, use topic keywords to search:

  • INFORMIT databases such as AGIS and the HUMANITIES & SOCIAL SCIENCES COLLECTION
  • LawCite (free)
  • AustLII journals (free)

3. Use commentaries on the topic, such as those on CCH, LexisNexis AU and Westlaw AU. 

4. In addition to using secondary sources:

  • FirstPoint on WestlawAU indexes cases by topics which can be browsed or searched using the 'Classification' field on the search form. You could also enter a search term in the 'Catchwords' field in the FirstPoint search form - this will search for your term in the catchwords section of the judgment. 
  • Use the Cases tab on LexisNexisAU to search the topic in the catchwords/summary search box.
  • JADE (free) can be searched by topic, tag or cloud.

Beware: the case law databases will find many cases, but not all will be significant - use books, articles and commentaries to ensure the importance of the case.

Finding the 'most important' cases on a topic

Use Secondary Sources!

The following will discuss the most important cases in the area:

  • Recent books and book chapters. Use the Library Catalogue to find relevant recent print and e-book. Secondary sources are the best way to find a discussion of the jurisprudence on the subject.
  • Legal encyclopedias such as The Laws of Australia (Westlaw AU) or Halsbury's Laws of Australia (LexisNexisAU). These are arranged by topic and can also be searched. 
  • The most important Australian cases will generally be those decided in the High Court. But English cases are often important in that this may be where the law was first enunciated or developed - English cases will not be found searching eg: LexisNexisAU or WestlawAU. See our Research Guide United Kingdom Legal Research for information about researching English law. 
  • If you find the case discussed in an encyclopedia or book, use a case citator such as Casebase or Firstpoint to a) ensure that you are referring to the authorised or 'best' version of the case and b) to check how the case has been treated subsequently by other cases paying particular attention to whether the case has been overturned.  

Finding the litigation history of a case

  1. Use FirstPoint to locate the record for your case.
  2. Refer to the part of the record called ‘Litigation history' to find earlier and related proceedings.