UTS Library

Case Law

In this guide:

This is a study guide designed to help you find legal cases. Most of the resources mentioned relate to Australian case law, although there are also links to databases containing international legal cases. This study guide describes the formal citation of cases and then goes on to provide links to Australian law report series and to the two major online case citators, Casebase (Lexis Advance) and Firstpoint (Westlaw AU).

Case Citations

The purpose of case citations is to provide sufficient information so that the cited case can be located easily. 

Components of a Case Citation

Green v The Queen (1949) 79 CLR 353

R v Petronius-Kuff [1985] 3 NSWLR 178

 Case Name Green v The Queen  R v Petronius-Kuff 
 Year*  (1949)  [1985]
 Volume Number   79  3
 Law Report Series   CLR  NSWLR
 Starting Page  353  178

In a case citation, the publication year can be in either round or square brackets.

  • Round brackets indicate that the law report series is arranged on the shelf by volume number. Example: Green v The Queen (1949)79 CLR 353
  • Square brackets indicate that the law report series is arranged on the shelf by year. Square bracket citations may not necessarily have a volume number. Example: R v Petronius-Kuff [1985]3 NSWLR 178 

(*For more information, see Australian Guide to Legal Citation AGLC, 4thed., page 49)

 

Law Report Series

Judgement of a case can be reported in multiple law report series. It may appear:

  • In an authorisedreport, and/or
  • In ‘unauthorised’reports.

The authorised version of the report should always be used where available. 

Authorised reports usually indicate that they are the ‘authorised reports’ of the court in the opening pages of each volume. Judgments reproduced therein have been approved by a judge or their associate. 

The version of a case to be cited should follow the preference order below (from top to bottom):

Law Report Version

Examples

Authorised reports (preferred)

CLR, FCR, VR, NSWLR

Unauthorised report (generalist)

ALR, AJLR, FLR, ACTR

Unauthorised report (subject-specific)

A Crim R, ACSR, IR, IPR

Unreported (medium neutral citation)

HCA, FCA, NSWSC, VSC

Unreported (no medium neutral citation)

See AGLC rule 2.3.2, page 56

 

Authorised Reports

The following are the most commonly cited Australian authorised (or preferred) report series:

Court / Jurisdiction Authorised Report Series Years
High Court of Australia  CLR 1903–
Federal Court of Australia  FCR 1984–
Australian Capital Territory  ACTR (in ALR)  1973–2008
ACTLR 2007–
New South Wales  SR (NSW)  1901–59
NSWR 1960–70
NSWLR 1971–
Northern Territory  NTR (in ALR)  1979–91
NTLR 1990–
Queensland St R Qd  1902–57
Qd R  1958–
South Australia  SALR 1899–1920
SASR 1921–
Tasmania Tas LR  1904–40
Tas SR  1941–78
Tas R  1979–
Victoria VLR 1875–1956
VR 1957–
Western Australia  WALR 1898–1958
WAR 1958–

 

Unauthorised Reports

Unauthorised reports (such as ALR, ALJR, FLR, Fam LR, A Crim R) are legitimate records of the judgement; however, they should only be used if authorised report for a case is unavailable or yet to be published. 

 

Unreported Cases

Unreported judgments are decisions of the courts which have not been published either because they are too recent or the case is not considered significant in terms of the law. Remember that it can take several months for a case to appear in a published report. 

Unreported judgments may later be published in law report series and be given a print citation. 

 

Medium Neutral Citations

Medium neutral citations (a citation system that does not depend on publisher or medium) are the preferred form of citation for unreported judgments. 

Medium neutral reports are only available online (from 1990 onwards).

Here is an example of a Medium Neutral Citation: 

Work Health Authority v Outback Ballooning Pty Ltd [2019] HCA 2. 

Case Name Work Health Authority v Outback Ballooning Pty Ltd
Judgment Year [2019]
Court Abbreviation  HCA
Judgment Number 2
  • Judgement Year: The judgment year is in square brackets. 

  • Court Abbreviation: HCA stands for High Court of Australia (court names are always abbreviated in medium neutral citations). 

  • Judgment Number: 2 (allocated by the court, this is the second judgment decided by the High Court in 2019). In case of Medium Neutral Citations, judgments are arranged by judgment number, not by page.

  • Pinpoints must refer to paragraph numbers (because there are no page numbers), and be in square brackets. With a pinpoint to paragraph 3 this medium neutral citation would be: Work Health Authority v Outback Ballooning Pty Ltd [2019] HCA 2, [3].  

  • Generally speaking, a medium neutral citation should only be used where the medium neutral citation was allocated by the court itself. For a full list of these courts and their abbreviations, please see Australian Guide to Legal Citation AGLC, 4thed., page 55

 

Case Citators

Case Citators help you find the citation to a case, the full text of the case, cases and legislation cited in the case and the subsequent legal history of the case. They may also refer you to journal articles.

Product

Features

Lexis Advance Pacific - CaseBase

Contains the New South Wales Law Reports (NSWLR) and the Australian Law Reports (ALR). Lists publications by  their preference order. 

Westlaw AU - FirstPoint

Contains the Commonwealth Law Reports (CLR), the Australian Criminal Reports and the Australian Digest. Great for searching for cases by topic area. 

AustLii - LawCite

Provides journal articles and Law Reform Commissions Reports.