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Cases: Researching cases

Use case law databases

Case databases enable you to identify and locate cases which are relevant to your research. They may provide case citations, digest information about the case, cases cited in the case, subsequent consideration of the case, journal articles or case notes written about the case, legislation considered by the case, and access to the full judgment.

The Australian case databases are:

There are also a couple of free case law websites

Selecting the right cases

Use the following checklist to help select cases which might be helpful in your research. You will always need to go to the full case and read it.

  • Is the case relevant to the issue at hand - look at the Catchwords provided at the top of the case

  • What court was the case heard in? Has it gone to Appeal? Look for the highest level court decision.

  • Was the case heard before a full bench or a single judge?

  • Has the case been reported and is there an authorised version available?

  • Has the case been written about in secondary sources, e.g. leading textbook or journal article.

  • Has the case been subsequently followed, approved, or applied? Is it still "good law"?

Understanding a case citation

To locate a case you need to identify what the case citation means. For example:

R v Fitchett (2009) 23 VR 91

Party names = R (appellant) v Fitchett (defendant) (Appeal case)
Year of law report/judgment = 2009
Law report volume = 23
Law report series = VR (Victorian Reports)
Beginning page number = 91

  1. Look up the meaning of the abbreviation
  2. Look in Search or the online law reports tab to find the law report

Recent and unreported cases can be found on AustLII. Note that these use Medium Neutral Citation (MNC) rather than law report citations. An MNC consists of the year of the judgment in square brackets, the Court abbreviation, and a sequential judgment number. For example: [2010] VSC 13