Law report

Law report

Law reports or reporters are series of books which contain judicial opinions from a selection of cases that have been decided by the courts. When a particular judicial opinion is referenced, the law report series in which the opinion is printed will determine the case citation format.

The term "reporter" was originally used to refer to the individual persons who actually compile, edit, and publish such opinions. [Lawrence M. Friedman, "A History of American Law", 3rd ed. (New York: Touchstone, 2005), 241-242.] For example, the Reporter of Decisions for the U.S. Supreme Court is the person authorized to publish the Court's cases in the bound volumes of the United States Reports. (See picture, right.) And the term still carries that meaning in all English dialects, but in the U.S. today, "reporter" additionally denotes the books themselves. In the Commonwealth, these are described by the plural term law reports, the title that usually appears on the covers of the periodical parts and the individual volumes.

In common law countries, court opinions are legally binding under the rule of stare decisis. That rule requires a court to apply a legal principle that was set forth earlier by a court of the same jurisdiction dealing with a similar set of facts. Thus, the regular publication of such opinions is important so that everyone—lawyers, judges, and laymen can all find out what the law is, as declared by judges.

Official and unofficial case law reporting

Official law reports or reporters are those authorized for publication by statute or other governmental ruling. [cite web
authorlink =
title = Harvard Law School Library, "One-L Dictionary", definition for "Official Publications"
accessdate =2008-06-02
] Governments designate law reports as official to provide an authoritative, consistent, and authentic statement of a jurisdiction's primary law. Official case law publishing may be carried out by a government agency, or by a commercial entity. Unofficial law reports, on the other hand, are not officially sanctioned and are published as a commercial enterprise. In Australia and New Zealand (see below), official reports are called authorised reports - unofficial are referred to as unauthorised reports. For the publishers of unofficial reports to maintain a competitive advantage over the official ones, unofficial reports usually provide helpful research aids (e.g., summaries, indexes), like the editorial enhancements used in the West American Digest System. Some commercial publishers also provide court opinions in searchable computer databases that are part of larger fee-based, online legal research systems, such as Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis.

Unofficially published court opinions are also often published before the official opinions, so lawyers and law journals must cite the unofficial report until the case comes out in the official report. But once a court opinion is officially published, case citation rules usually require a person to cite to the official reports.

Open publication on the Internet

The development of the Internet created the opportunity for courts to publish their decisions on Web sites. The relatively low cost of this publication method, and the importance of making court decisions freely available to the public — particularly in common law countries where much of the law can only be found in the decisions of courts — has resulted in many courts now publishing the majority of their decisions on the Web. Because a court can post a decision on a Web site as soon as it is rendered, the need for a quickly printed case in an unofficial, commercial reporter becomes less crucial.

Decisions of courts from all over the world can now be found through the Web site of [ WorldLII] and those of its member institutes. These projects have been strongly encouraged by the Free Access to Law Movement.

Many law librarians and academics have commented on the changing system of legal information delivery - brought about by the rapid growth of the World Wide Web . Professor Bob Berring writes that the "primacy of the old paper sets [print law reports] is fading, and a vortex of conflicting claims and products is spinning into place."Citation
last = Berring
first = Bob
author-link = Bob Berring
title = Chaos, Cyberspace and Tradition: Legal Information Transmogrified
journal = Berkeley Technology Law Journal
volume = 12
pages = 189 at III.A.
date = Spring 1997
url =
.] In theory, court decisions posted on the Web expand access to the Law beyond the specialized law library collections used primarily by lawyers and judges. The general public can more readily find court opinions online, whether posted on Web-accessible databases (such as the Hong Judiciary, above right), or through general search engines (e.g., Goggle, Yahoo, etc.) that continually index Web-published documents.

Questions remain, however, on the need for a uniform and practical citation format for cases posted on the Web (versus the standard volume and page number used for print law reports). Furthermore, turning away from the traditional "official-commercial" print reporter model raises questions about the accuracy, authority, and reliability of case law found on the Web.The answer to these questions will be determined, in large part, through changing government information policies, and by the degree of influence exerted by commercial database providers on global legal information markets.

Design and cultural references

Reporters usually come in the form of sturdy hardcover books with most of the design elements on the spine (the part that a lawyer would be most interested in when searching for a case). The volume number is usually printed in large type to make it easy to spot. Gold leaf is traditionally used on the spine for the name of the reporter and for some decorative lines and bars.

In lawyer portraits and advertisements, the rows of books visible behind the lawyer are usually reporters.

History and case reporting (by country)


Each province in Canada has an official reporter series that publishes superior court and appellate court decisions of the respective province. The federal courts, such as the Federal Court, Federal Court of Appeal, and Tax Court, each have their own reporter series. The Supreme Court of Canada has its own Reporter series, the Supreme Court Reports.

There are also general reporters, such as the long-running Dominion Law Reports, that publishes cases of national significance.

United Kingdom

England and Wales

In England and Wales, beginning with the reports of cases contained in the Year Books (Edward II to Henry VIII) there is a complete series of reports of cases decided in the higher English courts down to the present time.

In 1865, the nonprofit Incorporated Council of Law Reporting (ICLR) for England & Wales was founded, and it has gradually become the dominant publisher of reporters in the UK. It has compiled most of the best available copies of pre-1866 cases into the "English Reports". Post-1866 cases are contained in the ICLR's own "Law Reports". Even today, the UK government does not publish an official reporter, but its courts have promulgated rules stating that the ICLR reporters should be cited whenever possible.


* W. T. S. Daniel, "History of the Origin of the Law Reports" (London, 1884)


The Session Cases report cases heard in the Court of Session and Scottish cases heard on appeal in the House of Lords. The Justiciary Cases report from the High Court of Justiciary. Those two series are the most authoritative and are cited in court in preference to other report series, such as The Scots Law Times, which reports sheriff court and lands tribunal cases in addition to the higher courts. The law reports service of Scotland is supplemented by other reports such as the Scottish Civil Case Reports and Green's Weekly Digest.

United States

In each state of the United States, there are published reports of all cases decided by the courts having appellate jurisdiction going back to the date of their organization. There are also complete reports of the cases decided in the United States Supreme Court and the inferior federal courts having appellate jurisdiction since their creation under the United States Constitution. The early reporters were unofficial as they were published solely by private entrepreneurs, but in the middle of the 19th century, the U.S. Supreme Court and many state supreme courts began publishing their own official reporters.

In the 1880s, the West Publishing Company started its National Reporter System, which is a family of regional reporters, each of which collects select state court opinions from a specific group of states. The National Reporter System is now the dominant unofficial reporter system in the U.S., and some smaller states have discontinued their own official reporters and certified the appropriate West regional reporter as their official reporter. West and its rival, LexisNexis, both publish unofficial reporters of U.S. Supreme Court opinions. West also publishes the West American Digest System to help lawyers find cases in its reporters. West digests and reporters have always featured a "Key Numbering System" with a unique number for every conceivable legal topic. It is now available online as the KeyCite feature on Westlaw.The U.S. federal government does not publish an official reporter for the federal courts at the circuit and district levels. However, just as the UK government uses the ICLR reporters by default, the U.S. courts use the unofficial West federal reporters, which are the "Federal Reporter" (for courts of appeals) and the "Federal Supplement" (for district courts). West also publishes several unofficial state-specific reporters for large states like California.

Some government agencies use (and require attorneys and agents practicing before them to cite to) certain unofficial reporters that specialize in the types of cases likely to be material to matters before the agency. For example, for both patent and trademark practice, the United States Patent and Trademark Office requires citation to the United States Patents Quarterly (USPQ). ["Citation of authority", [ 37 C.F.R. § 42.12(a)(2)] ] ["Citation of Decisions and Office Publications", [ Trademark Manual of Examination Procedures § 705.05] ]

Today, both Westlaw and LexisNexis also publish a variety of official and unofficial reporters covering the decisions of many federal and state administrative agencies which possess quasi-judicial powers.


* Eugene Wambaugh, "Study of Cases" (second edition, Boston, 1894)
* C. C. Soule, "Lawyers' Reference Manual of Law Books and Citations" (Boston, 1884)
* Stephen Elias and Susan Levinkind, "Legal Research: How To Find And Understand The Law" (Berkeley: Nolo Press, 2004)


The Commonwealth Law Reports are the authorised reports of decision of the High Court of Australia. The Federal Court Reports are the authorised reports of decisions of the Federal Court of Australia (including the Full Court). Each state and territory has a series of authorised reports, e.g. the Victorian Reports, of decisions of the superior courts of the state or territory.

The Australian Law Reports are the largest series of unauthorised reports although there are several others general reports and reports relating to specific areas of the law, e.g. the Australian Torts Reports publish decisions from any state or federal court relating to tort law.

New Zealand

The New Zealand Law Reports (NZLR) are the authorised reports of the New Zealand Council for Law Reporting and have been published continuously since 1883. The reports publish cases of significance from the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court of New Zealand. The reports, which were initially sorted by volume, are sorted by year. Three volumes per year are now published, with the number of volumes having increased over time from one, to two and now to three. The reports do not focus on any particular area of law, with subject specific reports filling this niche. There are approximately 20 privately published report series focusing on specialist areas of law. Some areas are covered by more than one report series - such as employment, tax and family law. For a full list of current and historical report series, see the directory of [ decisions] on the University of Waikato web site.


In Bangladesh, the law reports are published according to the provisions of the Law Reports Act, 1875. There are at least six law reports now in Bangladesh, the most popular one is the Dhaka Law Reports (popularly known as DLR)which started its publication from 1948. Bangladesh Legal Decisions (BLD) is published under the authority of the Bangladesh Bar Council. The other law reports are Bangladesh Law Chronicles, Law Guardian, Bangladesh Law Times, Mainstream Law Reports. Even after the establishment of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh after 1972, a law report was published for few years under the supervision of the SC. But that did not continue for long. These Law Reports basically contain the judgements, Order and Decisions of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. The decisions of the lower judiciary are not reported in any law report. Very recently, [ Chancery Research and Consultant (CRC-Bangladesh)] a socio- legal research organisation launched the first ever searchable inter-active Bangladeshi Legal Information Website ( This site contains an online law report i.e. Chancery Law Chronicles. [


The Supreme Court Reports (SCR) is the official reporter for Supreme Court decisions. In addition, some private reporters have been authorised to publish the Court's decisions.

These include

* Indian Supreme Court Law Reporter (ISCLR)
* All India Reporter (AIR),
* Supreme Court Cases (SCC),
* Indian Law Reports (ILR),
* Supreme Court Almanac,
* Judgements Today (JT).

In India, the "All India Reporter (AIR)" published from Nagpur, Maharashtra has the widest coverage. Along with its sister publication, the Criminal Law Journal (CrLJ), it reports most civil and criminal law judgements of the Supreme Court of India and the High Courts of each of the States. It is published monthly, but reference is typically made to the annual bound volumes.

The case of "Sebastian Hongray v. Union of India" (dated: Nov 24, 1983) can be cited thus:

* ISCLR/1984/47/01 – which corresponds to the Indian Supreme Court Law Reporter (name of the reporter), Year (of publication), Part (of the reporter) and assigned case number;

* AIR 1984 SC 571 - where 'AIR' is the All India Reporter, '1984' is the year of judgement (AIR does not use a volume-based classification), 'SC' is the Supreme Court of India and '571' is the page number;

* (1984) 1 SCC 339 - which corresponds to the Year (of publication), Volume (of the reporter), Supreme Court Cases (name of the reporter) and Page Number (within the volume);

* 1984 Cri LJ 289 (SC) - which corresponds to Year (of publication), Criminal Law Journal (name of reporter) and Page Number (within the 1984 volumes). The forum is indicated in simple parenthesis.

* (1984) 2 Scale 1352 - A citation of the 'Supreme Court Almanac' looks like this

* (1984) 1 SC 374 - Judgements Today' like this

Indian Supreme Court Law Reporter (ISCLR) uses part-based classification and is being published weekly. ISCLR is recognized for its fastest and most accurate judgment reporting. This reporter use unique multi color highlighting feature to make the judgments easy to understand. ISCLR’s electronic version is distributed free of charge and is intended to help broaden public understanding of Law and of Supreme Court Judgments and Rulings.

The 'Supreme Court Cases (SCC)' published supplementary reports for a few years in the early 1990s. Those citations looked like this - Federation of Mining Associations v. State of Rajasthan1992 Supp (2) SCC 239, which points to page 239 of the Second Supplementary Volume of the SCC reports in the year 1992.

The SCC also have a separate series of subject-based reporting of the decisions of the Supreme Court. For instance - Rathinam Nagbhushan Patnaik v. Union of India 1994 SCC (Cri) 740, which refers to the SCC Criminal Reports, and Delhi Transport Corporation v. Mazdoor Congress 1991 SCC (L&S) 1213, which refers to the SCC Labour & Services Reports.

There are other subject-specific reports such as Arbitration Law Reports, Patents & Trademark Cases, consumer forum cases and so on.


Pakistan inherited a common law system upon independence from Great Britain in 1947, and thus its legal system relies heavily on law reports. The most comprehensive law book is the "Pakistan Law Digest" (PLD), which contains judgments from the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the various provincial High Courts, the Service, Professional and Election Tribunals as well as the superior courts of territories such as Azad Kashmir. PLD is augmented by other books, most notably the "Yearly Law Reports" (YLR), and the "Monthly Law Digest" (MLD).

These books are online available through website developed by Oratier Technologies (PVT) Ltd a sister concern of PLD

Certain federal, provincial, and local laws and rules are also available on the web site developed by the M/s. Nasir Law Associates by clicking at

The Supreme Court also has its own law book, the "Supreme Court Monthly Review" (SCMR), which lists more recent cases that the appex court heard.

In addition, there are books dealing with specific areas of law, such as the "Civil Law Cases" (CLC), which as the name suggests deals with Civil cases; the "Pakistan Criminal Law Journal" (PCrLJ), which reports Criminal Cases; and the "Pakistan Tax Decisions" (PTD), on the Income Tax tribunal cases and their appeals.


Kenya's first output of law reports was in the form of volumes under the citation E.A.L.R (East African Law Reports). They were first published between 1897 and 1905. Seven of these volumes were compiled by the Hon Mr Justice R. W. Hamilton, who was then the Chief Justice of the Protectorate and the reports covered all courts of different jurisdictions.

The 1922-1956 period saw the emergence of some twenty-one volumes of the Kenya Law Reports (under the citation K.L.R). These reports included the decisions of the High Court only and were collated, compiled and edited by different puisne judges and magistrates.

Then came the period covering 1934 to 1956 which saw the birth of the famous Court of Appeal for Eastern Africa Law Reports (E.A.L.R). These reports comprised twenty-three volumes altogether which were also compiled by puisne judges and magistrates, a Registrar of the High Court and a Registrar of the Court of Appeal for Eastern Africa. These volumes reported the decisions of the then Court of Appeal for Eastern Africa and of the Privy Council. They covered only those appeals filed from the territories.

The East Africa Law Reports (cited as E.A.) were introduced in 1957 and were published in nineteen consecutive volumes until 1975. These reports covered decisions of the Court of Appeal for East Africa and the superior courts of the constituent territories, namely, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Aden, Seychelles and Somaliland. They were published under an editorial board consisting of the Chief Justices of the Territories and the presiding judge of the Court of Appeal for Eastern Africa. Following the collapse of the East African Community, under whose auspices the reports were published, the reports went out of publication.

The period before the resumption of the East Africa Law Reports saw sporadic and transitory attempts at law reporting. Firstly, with the authority of the then Attorney-General, six volumes named the New Kenya Law Reports covering the period between and including the years 1976 to 1980 were published by the East African Publishing House Ltd. These reports included the decisions of the High Court and Court of Appeal of Kenya and were compiled by the Late Hon Mr Justice S. K. Sachdeva and were edited by Mr Paul H Niekirk and the Hon Mr Justice Richard Kuloba, a judge of the High Court of Kenya. The publication of these reports ceased when the publishing house folded them up ostensibly on account of lack of funds.

Later, two volumes of what were known as the Kenya Appeal Reports were published for the period 1982-1992 by Butterworths, a private entity, under the editorship of The Hon Chief Justice A.R.W. Hancox (hence the pseudonym “Hancox Reports”) who had the assistance of an editorial board of seven persons. These reports, as their name suggested, included only the decisions of the Court of Appeal of Kenya selected over that period.

Law reports relating to special topics have also been published. Ten volumes of the Court of Review Law Reports covering the period 1953 to 1962 and including the decisions on customary law by the African Court of Review were published by the Government Printer. There was no editorial board and it is not known who the compilers of these reports were. Their apocryphal origin notwithstanding, they were commonly cited by legal practitioners and scholars.

In 1994, the Kenyan Parliament passed the National Council for Law Reporting Act, 1994 and gave the Council the exclusive mandate of:“publication of the reports to be known as the Kenya Law Reports which shall contain judgments, rulings and opinions of the superior courts of record and also undertake such other publications as in the opinion of the Council are reasonably related to or connected with the preparation and publication of the Kenya Law Reports” (section 3 of the Act).

The Kenya Law Reports are the official law reports of the Republic of Kenya which may be cited in proceedings in all courts of Kenya (section 21 of the Act).


ee also

* Case citation
* Legal opinion
* Atlantic Reporter
* European Patent Office Reports (EPOR)
* NSW Law Reports
* North Eastern Reporter
* North Western Reporter
* Pacific Reporter
* South Eastern Reporter
* Southern Reporter
* South Western Reporter
* United States Patents Quarterly
* All England Law Reports
* Incorporated Council of Law Reporting
* Kenya Law Reports
* KenyaLaw.Org

External links

* [] Pakistan's Tax Law Software

ource note

Indian Supreme Court Law Reporter [ISCLR] -

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