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Law

Case law databases

CaseBase is a case citator provided by LexisNexis. CaseBase searches across all material held in the Lexis Advance database to provide you with an index of cases.

The range of information provided by CaseBase includes:

  • Cases referring to this case
  • Journal articles referring to this case
  • Cases considered by this case
  • Legislation considered by this case
  • Catchwords & Digest

Worked example for citations:

Q. Find a copy of the Hindmarsh Island Bridge case [1998] HCA 22

In the Citation box type 1998 hca 22 > confirm that the party name/s and other information you have matches the result.

Tip: To learn how to enter citations correctly select Citation Help

Note: We had the unreported citation for this case and could easily find a full-text version of the case in AustLII. However, by searching in CaseBase we have discovered that the case has been reported in the authorised series - the Commonwealth Law Reports (available through FirstPoint). There is also a link to the ALR (Australian Law Reports) version, which is published by LexisNexis AU.

Worked example for party name:

Q. Find the 2007 case ACCC v Knight

In the Case Name search box type accc and knight > 1 result - verify other details to make sure it is the correct case

Worked example for searching by topic:

Q. Find cases about unfair dismissal due to different types of discrimination

In the Catchwords/Summary search box type unfair dismissal and discrimination > View results > Select a case name to view the digest - your keywords will be highlighted.

FirstPoint is a case citator provided by Thomson Reuters Westlaw.  FirstPoint searches across all material in the Westlaw database to provide you an index of cases and provides material related to that case.  The range of information provided includes:

  • Digest (including hyperlinked subject headings)
  • Litigation history
  • Cases cited
  • Legislation judicially considered
  • Noted in journals
  • Party names

Worked example for citations:

Q. Find a copy of the iiNet case 194 FCR 285

In the Citation search box and type 194 fcr 285 > confirm that the party name/s match the information you have, then select the case title to view the information about case.

Tip: To learn how to enter citations correctly select the information symbol to display search tips

Select the PDF link next to the citation to link to a full-text copy of the case.

Note: There are multiple citations for this case as it has been reported in more than one law report series. However, not all the citations are hyperlinked - this means that the law report is provided by a different publisher.  For example, ALR - the Australian Law Reports - are published by LexisNexis AU, not Thomson Reuters.

Worked example for party names:

Q. Find the 2007 case ACCC v Knight

In the Case title/Party name search box type accc and knight > no results

Note: This may be an example when you need to try the full name, not the abbreviation

Select title, and in the search box type australian competition and consumer commission and knight > 1 result - select the case name to view the digest

Tip: The moral of the story is: Don't give up on your first try - sometimes it is necessary to try multiple searches and multiple databases to find the case you need.

Worked example for a topic search:

Q. Find cases relating to the burden of proof in murder trials

In the Free text search box type "burden of proof" and murder > View results

Note: The hyperlinked classification headings are assigned by editors who have read the case and are an easy way of finding other cases on your topic.

Select the Burden of Proof link from the chain Criminal law > Particular offences > Offences against the person > Homicide > Murder > Evidence > Burden of proof. This provides a list of other cases that have been assigned the same particular subject heading.

Jade provides access to Australian cases and tribunal decisions.  

Jade allows you to search by date, keywords, topic, legislation section or court and provides functionality for sharing results, creating alerts and saving searches.  All decisions are available in full-text and each one also has a citator report at the end of the decision. The range of information provided includes:

  • Cases citing the decision
  • Cases cited by the decision
  • Legislation considered by the decision

LawCite is a citator provided by Austlii, a collaboration project from the Free Access to Law Movement. It is an automatically generated international legal case and journal article citator and as such search results are gathered from Austlii's collection and the wider collections available through Worldlii.  Information provided by LawCite includes:

  • Cases referred to by the case
  • Cases citing the case
  • Legislation considered by the case
  • Articles that cite the case

LawOne allows you to quickly locate cases based on judicial consideration of legislation.  In other words, use LawOne when you want to locate cases that discuss a known section of legislation. 

IntelliConnect, published by CCH, allows you to access cases published in specialist reports.  These are subject related and collated under topic libraries.  Some (but not all) of the subject areas available include:

  • Corporate governance, company and securities laws
  • Taxation, bankruptcy and insolvency laws
  • Employment, discrimination, family law, personal injury, medical and sports law

The general search field at the top of the homepage allows you to search broadly after you have ticked the relevant libraries you wish to search.  Then you narrow your results using the drop-down menu under Search/Browse:

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Find cases by....

The easiest way to find a case is by its citation - this is a unique identifier for the case. Sometimes, cases will have more than one citation, if they have been reported in different law report series.

Databases that allow easy citation searching include FirstPoint, CaseBase, CCH Intelliconnect, Jade, LawCite.  Use the links below to access these databases.

Databases that allow easy party name searching include FirstPoint, CaseBase, CCH Intelliconnect, Jade, LawCite.  Use the links below to access these databases.

Party names aren't necessarily surnames, here are some other examples of party names:

Ex parte - meaning with only one side present

R - meaning Regina or Rex (depending on the reigning monarch) and is used in its abbreviated form in case reports to indicate the Crown in criminal prosecutions

In re - usually indicates that there is only one party

Having trouble?

Often, the only information you have about a case is one or both of the party names. There are a few tips when searching by party name:

  • Omit articles such as 'a', 'the' in names as well as terms such as 'Pty Ltd' in a company name
  • Beware of abbreviations - sometimes the case will be listed under the abbreviation, other times you will need to search for the full name
  • Beware of names with difficult or unusual spelling - always double-check spelling
  • Generally you should omit the 'v' if searching for a full case name - check the database help section to find out the correct way to enter the names
  • Party names are not unique, so it is important to verify that the case is the correct one by checking other details such as date, judge, court, topic etc.

When you do not know the citation of a case but know the case by its popular name, for example, theTasmanian Dam case, you can obtain the citation details from the case citators, eg. CaseBase, Firstpoint, Jade, LawCite, or try the Australian Law Dictionary.

In the search box type your case name to find more details of the case, including its official citation.

Often you are trying to find cases in a subject area, rather than a specific case. Using the free-text search box in a database such as Casebase, Firstpoint, CCH, or Jade provides great results, some of which will also indicate additional materials like commentary about the case, links to articles, dictionary and encyclopaedia entries (in the case of FirstPoint and Casebase).

Legislation judicially considered means that a piece of legislation, or part thereof, has been considered in case law - ie. by the judiciary.

Most legal research databases have a function for searching for legislation judicially considered.  In this place you can type the Statute or Regulation name along with the section, part or rule number.

Take a look in the databases below for quick and simple ways to search for legislation judicially considered.

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Authorised versions

What is an authorised version of a case?

Authorised law reports are report series which have been given official approval by the courts.

Each court has one series of law reports that is Authorised. If available an authorised version of a case should be cited in preference to any other reported version. If no reported version is available then the unreported version can be cited.

In a case citator, citations are usually listed in order of preference, so it is easy to see which is the best version to use:

eg. in CaseBase the authorised version is first > followed by the next preferred version > subject specific versions > medium neutral version and other unreported versions

eg. in Firstpoint the medium neutral version is first > followed by the authorised version > subject specific versions


Authorised reports of Australian courts

Court Authorised Report Series Abbreviation
High Court Commonwealth Law Reports (1903-) CLR
Federal Court Federal Court Reports (1984-) FCR
Administrative Appeals Tribunal Administrative Law Decisions (1976-) ALD
Supreme Court of Victoria

Victorian Reports (1957-)

Victorian Law Reports (1887-1956)

VR

VLR

Supreme Court of New South Wales

New South Wales Law Reports (1971-)

New South Wales Reports (1960-1970)

State Reports NSW (1901-1970)

New South Wales Law Reports (1880-1900)

NSWLR

NSWR

SR NSW

NSWLR

Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory Australian Capital Territory Law Reports (2008-) ACTLR
Supreme Court of the Northern Territory Northern Territory Law Reports (1991-) NTLR
Supreme Court of Queensland

Queensland Reports (1958-)

State Reports Queensland (1902-1957)

QdR

St R Qd

Supreme Court of South Australia

South Australian State Reports (1971-)

State Reports South Australia (1921-1971)

South Australian Law Reports (1865-1920)

SASR

SASR

SALR

Supreme Court of Tasmania

Tasmanian Reports (1979-)

State Reports Tasmania (1941-1978)

Tasmanian Law Reports (1905-1940)

Tas R

Tas SR

TLR

Supreme Court of Western Australia

Western Australian Reports (1960-)

Western Australian Law Reports (1899-1959)

WAR

WALR

 

But what is a law report?

Law reports are volumes in which judgements of some significance are published. These publications are designed to provide a comprehensive system of reporting and provide judges with written precedents. Cases that do not meet the criteria for publication in a law report belong to a large body of case law known as unreported judgments. Unreported judgments are now widely available online, through LawCite, Jade or databases such as Lexis Advance and Thomson Reuters Westlaw AU.

For more information about the law reporting process and why it is important read this guide from the State Library of Victoria.

Abbreviations

If the title of the law report or journal is abbreviated, you will need to find the full title before searching the Library Catalogue.

Useful legal abbreviation indexes include:

Australian courts use a system of Medium Neutral Citation to identify judgments. Each court has an 'identifier' or abbreviation that is used in these citations. The document below will help you find the full court name:

Case Citators

What is a case citator?

Case citators are a good starting point for case law research.

Note: It is important to remember that when you are searching in a case citator you are not searching full-text case law. Citators are a case law index - they provide a range of information about a case, including:

  • Citation/s
  • Details of subsequent consideration of the case - including an indication of whether the case is still 'good law' - i.e. whether or not it has been overruled by a later decision.
  • Earlier cases considered by this case
  • Legislation judicially considered by this case
  • Journal articles about the case
  • Keywords and/or a digest summary of the key points of law
  • A link to the full-text of the case if available

Why use a case citator?

  • More relevant results - the information in a record has been written by a legal editor who has read the full judgment and summarised the key points of law
  • To check whether a case has been reported and/or identify the authorised or preferred version you should use
  • To quickly check the facts of a case, without reading the full judgment
  • To easily find details such as litigation history and subsequent consideration of a case