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Case Law: How to find and use case law: Structure of a law report

What is case law? Where can you find Scottish and English case law? How can you check the status of case law?

Structure of a law report

A law report is divided into distinct sections. The most important of these is the judgment, or opinion, which is the text of the judge’s reasoning. However, other sections added by the editor assist in understanding the case and assessing its likely impact.

Sections usually found in a report are:

  • Parties’ names – that is the parties involved in the case. 
  • Court - before which the case was heard.
  • Date of the hearing – often some time before it is reported.
  • Judges' names - who heard the case.
  • Keywords or subject terms.
  • Headnote (or rubric) – this a summary of the case outlining the material facts, legal issues and decision.
  • Judicial history – that is details of the case’s history (in inferior courts).
  • Authorities referred to – a list of cases, legislation and textbooks referred to in the case.
  • Opinion or judgment of the court – the judge’s decision and reasoning. Judgments of superior courts are now divided into numbered paragraphs for ease of reference (numbers are in square brackets).
  • The outcome of the case.
  • Representation – the solicitors and advocates (or barristers) who represented the parties.

Online sources of case law

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