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Keeping up-to-date with the law: Cases

Tips for keeping up-to-date with the law in your research area

Introduction: Cases

This part of the guide gives advice on keeping up-to-date with new cases in your research area.

Subscription databases

If your organisation provides you with a username and password for one of the large legal databases then do make use of the case alerts features available. The search facility on these databases tends to be much more sophisticated than those available on free, open-access databases. For example you can set up a complex search string, search for cases that mention a particular legislative provision, or previous cases.

You can set up alerts using free-text searches or keywords, so that you are emailed every time a case that contains your search terms is added to the database. You can also opt to be alerted if a case goes on appeal, or if any subsequent cases refer to the case you are interested in.

Lexis Library

Lexis Library, published by LexisNexis, is one of the main legal databases in the UK. It contains around 50 series of law reports including The Law Reports and the All England Law Reports. Unreported cases and case summaries are also available. An alert can be set up to cover full-text judgments, law reports, or case summaries. A PDF guide to setting up alerts is available here.

Westlaw

Westlaw UK, published by Thomson Reuters, is large database of legal materials in the UK. It has around 50 series of law reports including The Law Reports and The Weekly Law Reports. Unreported cases and case summaries are also available. Like Lexis Library, an alert can be set up to cover the full-text judgments, law reports, or case summaries.

IALS Library is unable to provide individual usernames and passwords to students for Lexis Library and Westlaw. If you are registered as a student or member of staff elsewhere, please check with your home institution to find out if they can arrange this for you.

Case digests

A case digest is a serial publication designed to highlight new and key cases in a particular jurisdiction or area of law. The digest will normally contain a summary of the key legal arguments, helping you decide whether or not to read the full judgment or law report. If you read them regularly they will help you keep up-to-date with new case law in your research area.

Digests can be published as sections of journals or as publications in their own right. Here are some examples of case digests held in IALS library:

  • Commonwealth Human Rights Law Digest
  • Criminal Law Review
  • Human Rights Case Digest
  • Journal of Criminal Law

Checking if a case is still "good law"

If you want to rely on a case in your research you will need to check that it is still "good law". In other words you will need to establish whether the decision has been reversed on appeal or overruled by a higher court. Even if the case has received positive judicial treatment from more recent cases, you might want know which cases have done so, and the reasons why. You can do this using a case citator.

Case citators are available in hardcopy and electronically. Most concern themselves with a single jurisdiction, but citators that cover multiple jurisdictions also exist.

Electronic case citators

The following databases contain case citator functions. All are available onsite at IALS Library via the Law Databases page of the IALS website.

  • Lexis Library - for updating UK cases. Search using the cases tab and choose Case Overview from the sources list.
  • Westlaw UK - for updating UK cases. Search using the cases tab and choose Case Analysis Document.
  • Westlaw International -  for updaing US cases and Canadian cases.
  • VLex Justis - for updating cases from multiple common law jurisdictions.

Hardcopy print citators

There are too many printed case citators in IALS Library to mention in this guide. Check the Library Catalogue to see what is available for the jurisdiction you are researching, or the relevant Jurisdiction Guide, if available. Case citators are normally given the suffix .G or .H after the country code in the IALS Library classification.

Free online services

ICLR

The Incorporated Council of Law Reporting (ICLR) is the authorised publisher of the official series: The Law Reports for the Superior and Appellate Courts of England and Wales. On their website they provide an option to register for weekly email updates about newly published law reports and case summaries.

BAILII

The British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII) is an organisation that aims to make the law available for free on its website. If you are interested in receiving notifications of new judgments from individual courts in the UK, or recent cases of interest, you can set up an RSS feed on the following page:

www.bailii.org/rss

Please note that "recent additions" on BAILII are items that have recently been added to the database, though they may be of some antiquity, whereas "recent decisions" are items that have recently been published.

Court websites

Many courts now publish judgments on their websites and often have an RSS feed option to allow you to stay up-to-date with new judgments. Here are a couple of examples:

European Court of Human Rights RSS

European Court of Justice RSS

If the court you want to monitor judgments from does not offer an alerting service, consider setting up an alert on one of the subscription databases, or try one of the web monitoring services described in the introduction to this guide.