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Case Law: How to find and use case law: Where to find case law

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

Where to find case law

The main sources of cases are law reports, digests and official transcripts.

Originally law reports and digests were print publications, but now there are online versions of these sources. Many law reports are available on database services e.g. Westlaw and Lexis®Library.

There are many different series of law reports and a case may be reported in more than one series. Some series are given more authority than others by courts and in academic writing. Reports are usually published in weekly, monthly or bi-monthly parts throughout the year and subsequently bound into one or more volumes for each year.

Online versions of official transcripts are often available far sooner that a report can be - although you should always cite a report if possible.

Where to find case law online

Westlaw Cases Search

Westlaw Cases Search

Westlaw contains the full-text of many law reports and official transcripts as well as ‘Case Analysis’ documents.

You can access the Cases search from the Welcome page. Select the ‘Cases’ link at the top of the screen.

This takes you to the search page, where you can search by free text terms, subject/keyword terms, party names and citation.

Select 'More options' for additional search options, including searching by cases cited or legislation cited.

Once you have retrieved a case you can use the Case Analysis document to check its status and find out whether it can still be considered good law or whether it has been overruled or reversed. To the left of the Case Analysis document you can access other supplementary information about the case.

Lexis Library Cases Search

Lexis+ UK Legal Research – contains the full-text many law reports and official transcripts as well as ‘Case Overview’ analysis documents.

You can use the main search box onthe  Home page to search for cases. However, for more search options you may prefer to use the main 'Cases' search screen.

Under 'Content' below the main search box, select ‘Cases’. This takes you to the ‘Cases’ search screen, where using the Advanced Search options you can search by 'Case name', 'Search terms' or 'Citation'. Advanced search options also include specifying 'Judgment date', 'Court' and 'Judges'.

Once you have retrieved results, you can use the Case Overview document for a case to check its status and find out whether it can still be considered good law or whether it has been overruled or reversed. The Case Overview document also provides you with other supplementary information about the case.

 

Other online sources of case law

JustisOne

Contains reports and transcripts of cases including Session Cases archive (1821 – 1872) and Immigration Appeal Reports. By searching JustisOne you can also follow links to the full text of cases available on other services (including Westlaw and LexisLibrary).

 

HeinOnline: English Reports, Full Reprint (1220 - 1865)

The English Reports was issued in 178 volumes between 1900 and 1932, reprinting ‘nominate’ reports covering the period 1220 - 1865. Cases can be referred to by either English Report citation or Nominative citation. Access is also provided to the English ‘Statutes of the Realm’ (1235-1713) published between 1810 and 1825.

On the Welcome page under ‘Subscribed Libraries’, select ‘English Reports’, then ‘English Reports, Full Reprint (1220-1867)’. You can then choose to perform a simple ‘Case Locator’ search or ‘Browse’ the reports.

 

BAILII (British and Irish Legal Information Institute)

BAILII contains official transcripts of decisions from British and Irish courts and tribunals.


Curia

Curia contains transcripts of case law from the Court of Justice of the European Union and General Court of the European Union.

 

HUDOC (European Court of Human Rights)

HUDOC contains transcripts of case law from the European Court of Human Rights.

Where to find case law in the Library

Law reports (Level 5)

Law reports are located on level 5 of the Library near Archives and Special Collections. The shelves containing law reports have pink signs at the end of each row. These indicate the reports housed in each row. The different series of law reports are arranged alphabetically by series title (i.e. from Administrative Court Digest to World Court Reports).

Use SUPrimo to find which law reports we hold in print:

Key series of law reports available in the Library include:

Common law report abbreviations

Session Cases

This is the most authoritative series of Scottish reports. Early volumes of Session Cases are cited by a single letter abbreviation of the names of their editors.  For example:

5 S 390       (5th volume edited by Shaw page 390)

7 D 346       (7th volume edited by Dunlop page 346)

10 M 120     (10th volume edited by Macpherson page 120)

17 R 931      (17th volume edited by Rettie page 931)

4 F 297        (4th volume edited by Fraser page 297)

You will often be given a year too, but you can find the case without it.


From 1907 onwards this series is cited as SC e.g. 1995 SC 471

Within each volume of Session Cases there are now several separately numbered page sequences. Each page sequence reflects the court in which the case was heard.

For example:

SC (PC)       - Session Cases (Privy Council)

SC (HL)       - Session Cases (House of Lords)

JC                - Justiciary Cases

SC               - Session Cases

SC (UKSC)  - Session Cases (UK Supreme Court)

Remember to make sure you are looking in the correct section!


Scots Law Times

Sections in Scots Law Times also have distinct abbreviations, e.g.:

SLT                  -  Reports (from superior courts)

SLT (Sh Ct)      -  Sheriff Court reports

SLT (Land Ct)  -  Land Court reports

SLT (Land Tr)   -  Lands Tribual reports

SLT (Lyon)        -  Lyon Court reports

SLT (News)       -  News section (contains articles not cases)


Other Scottish reports

SCLR - Scottish Civil Law Reports

SCCR - Scottish Criminal Case Reports


The Law Reports (published by ICLR)

This is the most authoritative series of English reports. The Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales Law Reports is comprised of several component parts, each with their individual abbreviation. For example:

AC    - Law Reports Appeal Cases                      

Ch     - Law Reports Chancery Division

Fam  - Law Reports Family Division                 

KB / QB    - Law Reports King's / Queen's Bench Division

In the Andersonian Library these component parts are all shelved under Law Reports in the alphabetical reports sequence then alphabetically by component part.


All England Law Reports

All ER - All England Law Reports


Other abbreviations

Digests

A number of digests, containing summaries of cases, are held on level 5 of the Library – these can be located via SUPrimo:

Examples of digests include:

Textbooks and legal encyclopaedias

Textbooks and encyclopaedic works on particular areas of law will often contain references to and summaries of cases. Books can be located via SUPrimo:

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