This guide will help you find information about court cases. It explains how to find law reports and court records (including judgments and transcripts), both at the National Library and online.


Law reports  

Law reports are published reports of legally significant decisions of superior courts - for example, the Commonwealth law reports. Most decisions of courts are not published. Only those that are considered to establish new legal principles, or are from superior courts such as the High Court of Australia, and are therefore binding on lower courts, are published.


A decision is the determination reached by a court or tribunal after hearing a case or an issue in dispute.   


A judgment is the decision of a court as to the rights of parties in an action brought before it. This may include the reasoning and any interpretation of phrases in legislation or awards which led the judge to the decision. 


A trial is a civil or criminal court proceeding at first instance.

Case law 

Case law is the principle of law established by judicial decisions rather than by legislation.

Administrative tribunal 

An administrative tribunal is a statutory body responsible for extrajudicial settlement of disputes and hearing of appeals in particular areas of government concern, eg the Trade Practices Tribunal.

All the definitions above are adapted from the CCH Macquarie dictionary of law.  

Tags: Law
Black and grey slide with a large colonial era stone building with a dome in the centre stretching the full width of image. Road in front of the building is lined with trees
Hardie, Fred & G.W. Wilson & Co (1892). Law courts, Melbourne, ca.1892.

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