Law reports generally commence with a summary of the facts as well as providing details of the decision reached by a judge (or other decision-maker) and the reasons given for that decision.
Authorised law reports are those that are the official reports of a particular court. For example, the Commonwealth Law Reports are the official reports for High Court decisions. Click here for a list of Australian authorised law reports.
There are also a wide range of unauthorised law reports, for example the Australian Law Reports which also publish High Court decisions.
If a decision is published by both authorised and unauthorised publishers, you should refer to the authorised version.
There are also specialist law reports devoted to specific areas of law. Examples include the Australian Criminal Reports. Click here to view a list of subject specific law reports.
All cases have a reference known as a citation. Case citations are intended to help readers to identify the exact case and the law report series that the case is published in, or the court that the judgment was decided in.
A case that is published in a law report series is referred to as a reported case or decision and will have a ‘Reported Case Citation’.
A case that is not published in a law report series is referred to as an unreported decision or judgment and will have a ‘Medium Neutral Citation’. A medium neutral citation is a “citation system that does not depend on publisher or medium” (Australian Guide to Legal Research, 3rd ed.) This method was introduced by the High Court of Australia in the 1990s to accommodate the citation of judgments when they are first made available online.
In time, an unreported judgment may also become published in a law report series and subsequently have a reported case citation as well as.