Case law

Research Guide for finding cases and law reports at the State Library of NSW and freely available online

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander visitors are kindly advised that this website includes images, sounds and names of people who have passed.

All users should be aware that some topics or historical content may be culturally sensitive, offensive or distressing, and that some images may contain nudity or are of people not yet identified. Certain words, terms or descriptions may reflect the author's/creator's attitude or that of the period in which they were written, but are now considered inappropriate in today's context.

Key to library resources

Access anywhere with a library card In the Library (or anywhere with a Library card for NSW residents)
Available to access in the library Only in the Library
Publicly available online Publicly available

Case citators

Useful case citators

More about citations

This example will explain the key elements of a legal citation:

Waters v Public Transport Corporation (1991) 173 CLR 349

  • Name of case is Waters v Public Transport Corporation. The case takes its name from the parties of the case
  • v stands for 'versus' meaning 'against'
  • 1991 is the year of the decision
  • 173 is the volume of the report series
  • CLR is the abbreviated name of the report series, Commonwealth Law Reports.
  • 349 is the page the decision starts on in volume 173
  • Some cases are reported in more than one series. If so, these will all be shown

Citations of criminal cases

This example will explain the key elements of the legal citation:

Example: R v Carroll (2002) 213 CLR 635; (2002) 194 ALR 1

  • Name of case is R v Carroll
  • R or Regina (or Rex) refers to the Crown (Regina or Rex mean "queen" or "king" in latin)

Medium Neutral Citations

Australian courts use a system of Medium Neutral Citation to cite each case it produces. Each court has a unique abbreviation that is used in these citations.  This example will explain the key elements of a medium neutral citation:

Example: Sidhu v Van Dyke [2014] HCA 19

  • 2014 is the year of the decision
  • HCA is the abbreviation used by the High Court of Australia
  • 19 is the unique identifying number for this decision

Legal information at the Library

This Guide has been developed by staff of the Legal Information Access Centre (LIAC), State Library of NSW. The State Library holds an extensive collection of case law, legislation and looseleaf publications.

What is a case citator?

Case citators are a good starting point for case law research. Citators are case law indexes and provide key information such as:
  • Citation(s)
  • Details of how this case has been followed by future cases that discuss a similar point of law or issue
  • Earlier cases considered by this case
  • Legislation judicially considered by this case
  • Journal articles about the case
  • Keywords and/or a digest summary of the key points of law
  • A link to the fulltext of the case if available

Abbreviations - law reports

If the title of the law report or journal is abbreviated, you will need to find the full title before searching the Library Catalogue.

Finding your case

Use the following resources to help find your case: