Case law is a primary source of legal information and can be be divided into the following types: judicial decisions, law reports, unreported decisions and tribunal decisions. When undertaking legal research you may be searching for a particular case, where you have the citation, or cases relevant to a point of law.
Case law is published in printed law reports, free online sources and subscription databases.
If you need help finding case law contact the Law Subject Librarians.
There are various case citators that you can use to help you with your case research. Case citators typically give you an overview of the subject of the case, they also provide important information about your case, such as the cases that have been used by your case (cases cited) and the cases that have used your case (cases citing). They also help you discover the history of your case and if it has been over ruled, they typically use flags for this purpose. Beware of these flags, however, firstly, as they are the opinion of the editor and secondly, your case might have been over ruled on another aspect of law. You must still always read a case before including it in your legal argument. Citators may be built into a database or they may help you determine which database holds the case you are searching for such as JustCite and the Oxford Law Citator.
To search for cases on a topic there are several tools to use. BriefCase is a comprehensive index of more than 180 000 cases sourced from a variety of courts and tribunals. Each entry will provide a cases summary, legislation cited, cases cited and classification terms.
Linx, on Westlaw NZ and Linx Plus on Lexis Advance is a database of judgments indexed by the Law Societies and also provides many options for searching such as: free text, case title, judge, catchwords/subject etc.
It is important that you search both of these products as neither is complete and both are part of the wider suite of products available on Westlaw and Lexis.
In addition print law report indexes are useful to find both recent and historical cases. The New Zealand Law Reports at KH341 N49 on level 3 of the law library have amalgamated indexes which are inter-filed with the report volumes. They have tables of cases reported, tables of cases cited, tables of legislation referred to and tables of words or phrases which are judicially defined or considered by the court and subject indexes. Each volume is also indexed at the front.
There are topical report series such as the Family Law Reports, the Employment Reports of New Zealand, Magistrate Court Decisions, which also have tables of cases.
Judgments issued by the court. These are provided through free available databases as well as subscription databases provided by the library.
When you have a citation for a case
Some judgments are reported in a law report series. These are usually the judgments of the higher courts or those that deemed significant or have precedential value.
Cardiff Index to Legal abbreviations is a tool that will help to decipher legal abbreviations used in report series.
Once you have identified the report series, use Te Waharoa to search for it.