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Information Types - Law

Case law citations

What are case law citations?
What are the different ways a case can be cited?
What are parallel citations?
Which version of a case should I read and cite?
How do I recognise if a citation is for a reported judgment or if it is a medium neutral citation?

 

What are case law citations?

A case law citation is how a judgment is referenced.

It gives the publications details of the judgment, which you can use to locate it.

See the Case Law Search Smart Guide for details on how to cite case law.

 

What are the different ways a case can be cited?

There are different ways to cite judgments, depending on whether it is a reported or unreported version.

Citations for reported judgments refer to the law report series in which the judgment was published.
e.g. Mabo v State of Queensland (No. 2) (1992) 175 CLR 1
This refers to the

  • year
  • volume number
  • abbreviation for the law report series (e.g. Commonwealth Law Reports)
  • starting page number

Citations for unreported judgments refer to the court or tribunal in which the case was heard.
e.g. Mabo v State of Queensland (No. 2) [1992] HCA 23
This refers to the

  • year
  • court (High Court of Australia)
  • judgment number

 

What are parallel citations?

Multiple citations that refer to the same judgment.

e.g. where a case has been published in multiple law report series, or where a medium neutral citation is also given.

You should only use one citation when referring to the judgment - preferably the authorised version, where available (AGLC Rule 2.3.1)

 

Which version of a case should I read and cite?

Rule 2.3.1 of the Australian Guide to Legal Citation states:

"A reported version of a case should be cited in preference to an unreported version.

"Where a case appears in an 'authorised' report series, this series should be cited in preference to any other reported version.

"Where a case has not been reported in an authorised report series, an unauthorised report series should be cited.

"Generalist unauthorised report series should be cited in preference to subject-specific unauthorised report series."

 

How do I recognise if a citation is for a reported judgment or if it is a medium neutral citation?

It can be confusing to determine if a citation is for a...

  • case published in a law report series
  • a medium neutral citation

 

Sometimes you can tell by the brackets
  • reported cases will usually have the year in (round brackets)
  • medium neutral citations always have the year in [square brackets]

However, some reported cases also have the year in square brackets.
These are series that are organised by year, rather than volume number.

 

Sometimes the best clue is the abbreviation - is it for...
  • a law report series, or
  • a court or tribunal?

Tip: it is likely to be a medium neutral citation is there is a...

  • C - for court
  • T - for tribunal