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Cases  

A guide to finding cases, both in print and online, in the IALS Library and further afield
Last Updated: Jul 6, 2017 URL: http://libguides.ials.sas.ac.uk/cases Print Guide RSS Updates

Finding cases Print Page
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Last updated:

Lisa Davies, June 2013

 

About the author

This guide was updated by Lisa Davies, Access Librarian at the IALS Library.

Click here for Lisa's full profile and contact details.

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    The classification of cases at IALS

    Law reports and digests are the main sources for case law and printed sources are arranged in the IALS Library according to jurisdiction. Law reports are identified by the letter G in the middle of the classmark and digests by the letter H. For example;

    GP1.G.12 Federal reporter, 2nd series 
    GD1.H.1 Australian digest 
    GA2.H.10 Halsburys laws of England

    If you are unsure of the location of the classmark in the library, check the floor directory or the guide to Classmarks and the Location of Resources in the Library.

     

    Finding law reports for a specific jurisdiction

    Using print resources

    There are a number of different ways to find law reports from a particular jurisdiction in the library.

    Method 1

    Consult the guide to Classmarks and the Location of Resources in the Library to find the general classmark for the country you are interested in. As mentioned above, law reports are identified by the letter G in the middle of the classmark and digests by the letter H. For example;

    ENGLAND. Law reports    GA2.G
    AUSTRALIA. Digests        GD1.H

    Once you know the general classmark you can then run a Classmark search on the Library Catalogue to find out the names of the series of the law reports held in the library. Note down the full classmark.

    Method 2

    Run a Subject search on the Library Catalogue for law reports digests etc and the jurisdiction. For example;

    digests scotland
    law reports canada

    This will let you view all of the law reports and digests we hold for a particular jurisdiction and give you the classmark.

    Method 3

    Check the relevant Jurisdiction Research Guide, or International Law Research Guide if available, as they will introduce you to the key series of law reports. When you have the title of the series, run a Title search on the Library Catalogue to see if it is held in the library. The catalogue record will give you the classmark and also indicate whether that law report series is available electronically on any of the databases IALS Library subscribes to.

    Using electronic resources

    The Library has a wide range of electronic law reports available via its Electronic Law Library. For instance Lexis Library contains full text law reports from many jurisdictions including the USA, UK, EU, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Westlaw provides full text law reports from the USA, UK, Canada and EU. 

    If you aren't sure which database covers your jurisdiction:

    Once you have logged in to your chosen database:

    1. Select the relevant section of the database as necessary e.g. UK cases and use the search options provided. Refer to the Quick Guides to Key Databases and the help pages for individual databases as necessary.

    2. You will have the option to print, download or email the report.

    3. If your search is unsuccessful check any alternative databases which may include cases for that jurisdiction, try using print resources, or refer to Finding cases in law reports not held in the library, below.

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    Finding a specific case

    Using print resources

    1. If your reference is abbreviated, e.g. All E.R., the first step is to find out what the abbreviation stands for. To do this, try:

    • the Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations
    • IALS list of Selected Legal Abbreviations available online and at the front of the list of serials on every floor in the library
    • Raistrick: Index to legal citations and abbreviations (located at shelf RF73 RAI)

    2. Once you know the title of the series of law reports, search for it on the Library Catalogue.

    3. If your search is successful note down the classmark. The catalogue record will also indicate whether the law report series is available electronically on any of the databases IALS Library subscribes to.

    4. If your search is unsuccessful try an electronic resource instead or refer to the section below on Finding cases in series of law reports not held in the Library.

    Using electronic resources

    The Library has a wide range of electronic law reports available via its Electronic Law Library. For instance Lexis Library contains full text law reports from many jurisdictions including the USA, UK, EU, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Westlaw provides full text law reports from the USA, UK, Canada and EU. A full list of our electronic resources is available on the Electronic Law Library.

    If you aren't sure which database covers your jurisdiction:

    Once you have logged in to your chosen database:

    1. Select the relevant section of the database and use the search options provided to search for your case. If you have the party names this is often the most accurate way of searching as citation searches can be rather less reliable. Refer to the Quick Guides to Key Databases and the help pages for individual databases on the Electronic Law Library as necessary.

    3. If you are successful you will be able to print, download or email the report.

    4. If you are unsuccessful:

    • Try a different way of searching for the case (e.g. try a citation search, search for just one of the party names, search by judge's name, date of judgment, court, etc.;
    • Check any alternative databases which may include cases for that jurisdiction;
    • Search for the law report series title on the Library Catalogue. If the title you need is listed, check if it is included on a different database;
    • Try using print resources
    • Refer to the section on Finding cases in series of law reports not held in the Library

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    Finding cases on a subject

    Using printed resources

    If you are looking for cases on a particular subject area in printed series of law reports you may like to try some of the following:

    1. Run a Keyword search on the Library Catalogue for the word digests or law reports and your chosen subject. For example;

    international law digests
    arbitration law reports

    2. Check the Subject Guides to find the name of some key law reports for different areas of law.

    3. Browse or use the indexes of subject specific series of reports.

    4. Use the subject indexes of general series of law reports.

    5. Check digests, encyclopaedias and case citators which list cases by subject and provide full citations to the series in which they are reported.

    Using electronic resources

    The Library has a wide range of electronic law reports available via its Electronic Law Library. For instance Lexis Library contains full text law reports from many jurisdictions including the USA, UK, EU, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Westlaw provides full text law reports from the USA, UK, Canada and EU. A full list of our electronic resources is available on the Electronic Law Library.

    If you aren't sure which database covers your jurisdiction:

    Once you have logged in to your chosen database:

    1. Select the relevant section of the database and use the search options provided to search for your case. Search by subject term or keywords and type in words relevant to your subject area. Be aware that databases search in different ways for words and use the search help options in the database to help you to construct your search. Refer to the Quick Guides to Key Databases and the help pages for individual databases on the Electronic Law Library as necessary.

    2. If you are successful you will be able to print, download or email the report.

    3. If you are unsuccessful:

    • Try a different way of searching (e.g. search in the full-text instead of by subject);
    • Consider using synonyms and broader search terms;
    • Check any alternative databases which may include cases for that jurisdiction;
    • Try using print resources;
    • Refer to the section on Finding cases in series of law reports not held in the Library which gives tips on how to find cases that are freely available online.

    4. If you get too many results:

    • Try different ways of searching (e.g. instead of a keyword search, try a subject search);
    • Is your keyword or subject too broad? If so, consider using narrower search terms;
    • Try combining your subject search with a free-text search.

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    Finding cases in law reports not held in the library

    If you need to locate a case from a series of law reports that is not available in the Library in either printed or electronic form here are some suggestions for tracking it down in another library or on the internet:

    • Check one of the many catalogues on the web which include the holdings of more than one library. This will save you time as you do not have to search many separate catalogues. You may need to visit another library to obtain the material which you need. Alternatively you may be able to obtain titles from libraries using the interlibrary loan and document delivery services offered by the library at your institution. Here are some suggestions:

    • To locate cases for a particular foreign jurisdiction try the FLAG Foreign Law Guide database. This is an inventory database of the holdings of primary legal materials for foreign jurisdictions of academic and national libraries around the UK.

    • Check the Eagle-i internet portal to  see whether there are any freely available reports or judgments on the web;

    • Check WorldLII for links to freely available online reports and judgments.

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    Checking if a case is still good law

    Use a case citator or digest to check whether a case is still "good law". This will tell you:

    • if your case has gone on appeal to a higher court, and whether the original decision was affirmed or reversed;
    • which subsequent cases have cited your case, and whether the treatment given was positive, negative or neutral.

    Case citators in the library are found in either the law report sequence on the shelves or in the digest sequence, e.g. for Canada look in GC1.G (the law reports sequence) or GC1.H (the digest sequence).

    GA2.H.7  Current law case citator
    GD1.H.1  Australian case citator
    GP1.G.102  Shepard's California reporter citations

    Many of the legal databases available in the Electronic Law Library allow you to check the status of a case. Remember that different databases can indicate a different status for the same case. This is because deciding what constitutes positive or negative treatment is largely an editorial decision. It is always recommended to check more than one citator and to read the full law report rather than relying on the colour coded signals.

     

    Note on the arrangement of the series entitled "The Law Reports"

    In addition to the electronic version of the Law Reports, available on Westlaw UK, there are two sets of The Law Reports in the library, located on the third floor arranged in the following order:

    (NB The # is placed where a volume number would appear. The [ ] denotes a year as an essential part of the citation, where volume numbers are not used.)
    APPELLATE SERIES (spine title colour and reprint binding colour: LIGHT BROWN)

    L.R. # H.L. English & Irish Appeals (1866-1875)
    L.R. # Sc. & Div. Scotch and Divorce Appeals (1866-1875)
    L.R. # P.C. Privy Council Appeals (1865-1875)
    # App.Cas. Appeal Cases (1875-1890)
    [ ] A.C. Appeal Cases (1891- )


    EQUITY SERIES (spine title colour and reprint binding colour: RED)

    L.R. # Ch. or # Ch.App. Chancery Appeal Cases (1865-1875)
    L.R. # Eq. Equity Cases (1866-1875)
    # Ch.D. Chancery Division (1875-1890)
    [ ] Ch. Chancery Division (1891- )


    COMMON LAW SERIES (spine title colour and reprint binding colour: GREEN)

    L.R. # C.P. Common Pleas Cases (1865-1875)
    # C.P.D. Common Pleas Division (1875-1880)
    L.R. # Ex. Exchequer Cases (1865-1875)
    # Ex.D. Exchequer Division (1875-1880)
    L.R. # C.C.R. Crown Cases Reserved (1865-1875)
    L.R. # Q.B. Queen's Bench Cases (1865-1875)
    # Q.B.D. Queen's Bench Division (1875-1890)
    [ ] Q.B. (or K.B.) Queen's (or King's) Bench Division (1891- )


    OTHER SERIES (spine title colour code: GREEN. Reprint binding colour: BLUE)

    L.R. # A.& E. Admiralty and Ecclesiastical Cases (1865-1875)
    L.R. # P.& D. Probate and Divorce Cases (1865-1875)
    # P.D. Probate Division (1875-1890)
    [ ] P. Probate Division (1891-1971)
    [ ] Fam. Family Division (1972- )

    L.R. # R.P.Restrictive Practices Cases (1957-1972) (ONE SET ONLY - shelved with 1st copy)
    [ ] I.C.R.Industrial Court Reports (1972-1974), then Industrial Cases Reports (1975- )

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    Finding unreported cases

    The IALS Library does not collect transcripts or judgments of unreported cases in print. If you are looking for a UK judgment not reported in a published series of law reports, you can try various sources to see if the judgment is available online.

    BAILII, the British and Irish Legal Information Institute, makes judgments freely available on the internet. CaseTrack, which provides access to judgments from UK higher courts since 1996, is available in the Electronic Law Library for academic members of IALS. Lexis Library and Westlaw UK also contain many unreported cases. Please note that only cases which contain an important point of law tend to get reported, and unreported cases are only available on the internet if a court has given its consent. If you are looking for cases from jurisdictions from outside the UK, try some of the many services linked to BAILII listed under World Law Resources.

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