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Australian Case Law

Tips for Finding Case Law


This page contains tips for understanding case citations and formats which will help you to find case law.

Tip 1: Understand case citation formats


A case citation is the system used to organise, identify and locate a case. Citations vary depending on whether the case is reported or unreported. Case citations are a convenient, standard way of abbreviating the name and publication details of a case. Each case has its own, unique citation(s).

Citation format for a reported case is generally: 

Party Names (Year) Volume Publication Abbreviation Starting Page

Eg. R v Hughes (2000) 202 CLR 535

If a reported case series is organised by year (rather than volume), the year is placed in [square brackets]:

Eg. Bakker v Stewart [1980] VR 17

The standard way of referring to unreported Australian cases is generally: 

Party Names [Year] Unique Court Identifier Judgment Number [Pinpoint]

Eg. Quarmby v Keating [2009] TASCC 80 [11]

For other unreported judgments, including unreported judgments from overseas, use:

Party Names (Court, Judge(s), Date of judgment) Pinpoint

Eg. Barton v Chibber (Supreme Court of Victoria, Hampel J, 29 June 1989) 3

Part II of the Australian Guide to Legal Citation, 4th edition (AGLC4) contains the full set of rules for citing Australian domestic cases.

Tip 2: Understand the difference between reported and unreported cases


 

Reported cases are those judgments published in law reports. Cases that are published in law report series are those which deal with significant points of law or establish precedents. Reported case include the authorised report series for each court, and subject or jurisdiction based report series. Reported cases are available on Lexis AdvanceWestlaw AU and CCH.

 

Unreported cases are those cases not considered to establish an important precedent, or may be too recent to be reported in a reports series. Unreported judgments are those handed down by judges in court. They are available in Lexis AdvanceAustLIIBarNet Jade, and the judgment databases on the individual court websites (available in the case law by jurisdiction). 

Tip 3: Cite the authorised version of a case


In each Australian jurisdiction there is one series of law reports designated as authorised. 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 2.2.2 in AGLC 4.

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.

Please see our Authorised Reports Research Guide to find:

  • information about what authorised reports are and why they are used;
  • which version of a case to use when there is no authorised report;
  • a list of authorised report series from Australia and other jurisdictions; and
  • the Library's holdings of authorised reports online and in print.

Tip 4: Interpreting legal abbreviations


Abbreviations are used regularly in legal publishing. If you are unsure what an law report (or journal) abbreviation stands for you a tool such as the Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations. You can search by abbreviation and the results will give you a listing of all the legal publications that use that abbreviation. 

The Law Library website's Legal Abbreviations page lists various tools to help you in interpreting legal abbreviations.  

Australian Case Citator Comparison


View table on the four Australian Case Citators