This guide provides an introduction to case law research with links to case law resources across different jurisdictions. Navigate to the Tips for Finding Cases for information on case citations and legal abbreviations. To research cases by legislation, secondary materials or topic, select the Case Law Research tab on the left.
Case law is law developed by judges in courts. Case law research involves reading legal judgments - understanding the reasons behind a judgment and how the law has been interpreted by the judge. Case law interprets and enforces the laws created by parliament.
In common law jurisdictions such as Australia, there are two primary sources of the law: case law and legislation. Case law is equally important in interpreting the law.
Case law are laws made by judges through their decisions in court cases. The court system is hierarchical, therefore judges in lower courts must follow decisions of higher courts. This is known as the doctrine of precedent. It is a key marker of the common law system. Jurisdiction is important in legal research. In the context of case law research, jurisdiction refers to the court which heard the matter.
In legal research, it is essential to rely on the primary sources of law, including case law. This guide outlines where to go to locate case law.