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Information Types - Law

How judgments are made available

1. An unreported version of the decision may be made public
2. Details about the judgment are added to a case citator/digest
3. The judgment may be published in a law report series
Not every case is published, in either reported or unreported format

 

1. An unreported version of the decision may be made public

Soon after a judgment has been delivered in court, an unedited text of the decision may be made available online. These are known as unreported judgments.

You can find unreported judgments on:

 

2. Details about the judgment are added to a case citator/digest

The major legal publishers may decide to add details about the judgment to their online databases. This information includes:

  • the case name (and popular name)
  • citations of where the case is reported, as well as a medium neutral citation
  • details about the court, judge and judgment date
  • details of how the case has been treated by later cases
  • legislation and earlier cases referred to in the judgment
  • citation details of case notes (ie journal articles that analyse the judgment)
  • a brief summary of the facts and decision

The two major case citators for Australia are:

 

3. The judgment may be published in a law report series

Finally, the legal publishers select significant judgments to be published in their law report series. These published cases are known as reported judgments.

As well as replicating the judgment in full, the publishers add further information at the beginning:

  • Catchwords - these are subject headings that describe the areas of law raised in the case
  • Headnote - a summary of the facts and reasons for the decision

If you have a full citation, you can use Find that Case@Flinders to locate reported judgments. Type in the abbreviation from the citation to learn where to find the report series online or in the Law Library.

If you do not have a full citation, search for the party names in CaseBase or FirstPoint - once you have the full citation details, you can use Find that Case@Flinders.

 

Not every case is published, either in reported or unreported format

Only a select number of cases are published. The decision to publish a case is generally based on:

  • the importance of the court the case was heard in
  • the precedent value of the judgment - e.g. where a judgment made significant changes to the law or explained a legal principle in depth

Other judgments may not be made available at all, either in reported or unreported form. This may be because:

  • the case is from one of the lower courts, which often do not publish judgments
  • the case is a trial decision, which are often not published
  • the case has been suppressed due to the sensitivity of the issue or the parties involved

In these situations, often the best way to find information about the case is to search for news articles.