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Law and Justice

This guide provides access to major Australian and international legal resources and help on searching them.

Case Databases

Case Citators

Case citators – what are they?

A case citator is a very useful tool to use for legal research. Case citators are a type of case law index.

Case citators do not provide the full text of a case but you may be linked to full text versions of the case where the publisher of the citator publishes the case series (i.e. FirstPoint from Westlaw AU will link to the Commonwealth Law Reports). Citators can assist legal researchers in locating a variety of useful information about the case. 

Case citators can be useful in helping you determine:

  • The correct citation for a case;
  • If the case has been reported in more than one series of case reports (parallel citations);
  • If the case has been reported in an authorised law report series;
  • Whether any later cases have considered the case;
  • What earlier cases were considered by the case;
  • If the case considered any legislation;
  • If journal articles have considered the case;
  • If the case is still considered good law.

Case citators all use a different variety of symbols to provide guidance on whether or not the case is still considered good law. They use symbols and annotations to explain the current status of the case. 

Find an Australian case

When you have the case name or citation: Mabo v Queensland (No 2) (1992) 175 CLR 1 

Use a case citator.  A case citator is an index of cases and provides complete citatation details for a case as well as a digest, or summary, of a case. Case citators link to the full text of case reports subscribed to by RMIT Library.  The two Australian case citators can be found below.

  • Search for the case name Mabo v Queensland 
  • or citation 175 CLR 1.  

On a legal topic: the criminal defence of provocation

  • Search  -- Free Text search: criminal defence provocation 
  • Search  -- Search Terms: criminal and defence and provocation 

Two important case citators ‚Äčare Lexis Advance Pacific and Westlaw AU

Video - Finding Australian Case Law

Authorised Reports

In Australia, if a decision appears in an authorised report series, this is the version that must be cited in student essays and scholarly publications. In all Australian courts, there is a convention that the authorised report of a judgment be cited and handed up in court in preference to other versions. Cite in the order below -

Authorised Reports -  these are published in a designated authorised report series. The published judgments have been reviewed by the presiding judge of the case and go through a process of annotation and review. These reports are the most authoritative report series and should be cited if they are available. Eg. Commonwealth Law Reports. 

Unauthorised Reports - these do not go through the review process by the courts. They are a legitimate record of the court decision, however, these report series are often published quickly and may be the only reported version until the authorised version is available. In some cases, the unauthorised report may be the only source to locate certain cases, particularly matters from local courts and tribunals covering specialised areas of law. Eg. Australian Law Reports.

Unreported judgement - these are decisions of courts that have not been published in a law report. The decision may not have been published because for a number of reasons, such as the case being too recent, the case does not add any additional authority to the body of case law or it may have been overlooked as it is considered of little significance at the time. 

Abbreviations

Law reports and journal titles appear in legal citations as abbreviations. Use an index to legal abbreviations to get the full title:

How Laws are Made - Video