Law reports

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Law reports contain the more important cases decided by the courts. There are many different types of law reports, each one reporting court decisions of different courts, states, countries or areas of law.

When a court decision is included in a law report, it is called a ‘reported case’.

A reported case will be written differently to the original court reference (also known as the ‘medium neutral citation’). See the following example case, which was reported in 2 law reports:

  • Court Reference (medium neutral citation):
    Commonwealth v Anderson [1960] HCA 85
  • Reported case in the Commonwealth Law Review:
    Commonwealth v Anderson (1960) 105 CLR 303
  • Reported Case in the Australian Law Report
    Commonwealth v Anderson [1961] ALR 354

In this example. the party commencing the action is the Commonwealth and the party defending (or responding) to the action is Anderson.

  • In the court reference: [1960] is the year of the decision, HCA is the court abbreviation (High Court of Australia), and 85 is the judgement number (this decision was the 85th decision by the High Court in 1960);
  • In the Commonwealth Law Review example: (1960) is the year the decision was handed down, 105 is the volume reference, and 303 is the page number in that volume; and
  • In the Australian Law Review example: [1961] is the volume reference, and 354 is the page number in that volume.

Most law reports will have:

  • the names of the parties involved,
  • a summary (called the ‘headnote’) that lists the facts and the court’s decisions, and
  • the written judgement (also known as the ‘decision’)
    • including the reasons for the decision, and
    • the final order of the court.

Most law reports and databases are only accessible if you pay a subscription fee. If you are a student or work at a university, you should be able to access most law reports through your uni databases.

Jade offers access to a range of reported cases and court decisions for free.

If you know the decision you are looking for, you may be able to find the reported case through a google search.

You should also be able to find most important decisions and decisions from higher courts (The High Court, Federal Courts, and State Supreme Courts) on court websites or through Austlii.

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