Reported and unreported judgements

Reported v Unreported Case Law

There are two main types of case law :

  • Reported cases – these are judgments published in law reports. Only those cases which deal with significant points of law are considered to be valuable precedents and are included in law reports. Your law teachers – and later judges in courtrooms – prefer reported cases over unreported decisions.
  • Unreported cases – this includes both judgments too recent to be reported and those that the relevant Court considered not sufficiently important to report.

Why does it matter?

This is important, as Reported Cases (authorities) are the cases that the relevant Court have decided are sufficiently important to justify reporting. These are the cases on which a point of law turns or which examine important points of law in detail. Reported decisions have a higher value than unreported decisions – and where a reported version is available, it is the reported version of the case that you should cite in assignments (and later in Court!)

Most of the decisions that you find online using free databases (ie. Jade or Austlii) will be unreported decisions – you will need to use the ‘paid’ databases to find the citations for their reported versions. It’s also worth checking that there are no differences between the reported and unreported text – as the authorised reports are edited and checked for grammatical and other errors, small – and often important – differences will appear.

Top Tip: Make a habit of checking a citation (for example FirstPoint via WestLaw) to see if an unreported version of a case has been reported anywhere.

– LawStudent.Solutions

What’s in the Video?

In this Video, Legal Research Legend will explain how Law Reports are made – firstly by walking through how the decision is made to report a case, then what the process involves and then lastly explaining the importance of learning the various reporting acronyms. You can download her handy list of acronyms below.

In this video Sue Yap walks us through some important concepts:

Video Table of Contents:

  • 00:00 – Introduction
  • 00:21 – What is an Authorised Report?
  • 00:31 – Which judgements are reported?
  • 01:08 – What does “reported” mean?
  • 01:32 – What goes into a headnote?
  • 01:43 – About the editing process?
  • 02:20 – What is the Council?
  • 02:39 – Back to the acronyms … (you can download the file seen on screen below)
  • 03:52 – Bonus pickup line (… use at your own risk!)