Law reports are periodically released volumes of published judgments. There are many different law reports with different specialities produced by different publishers.
Some law reports focus on a specific court. For example, the Commonwealth Law Reports (CLR) contain High Court cases.
Other law reports focus on specific areas of law. For example, the Family Law Reports (Fam LR) contain family law cases, regardless of the court they were from.
If a case is important, it will likely be reported in several different law report series. Refer to the PDF chart below for a handy guide.
However, if a case is legally unimportant, it may never be published in a law report series. Such cases are known as unreported cases.
These are cases that have been published in established law report series.
Authorised reports are a sub-group of reported judgments.
Case reports that are selected, reviewed, and officially approved by the judiciary are known as 'Authorised Reports'. This means they are recognised by the judiciary (Council of Law Reporting) as holding the 'authorised' or official version of the judgment in question.
Only certain courts, such as the High Court, the Federal Court, and State and Territory Supreme Courts have authorised report series.
Authorised reports can take over a year to be published due to the editorial process involved.
An authorised report should always be cited in preference to an unauthorised report.
A list of most commonly cited Australian authorised (or preferred) report series can be found in the Australian Guide to Legal Citation (AGLC), rule 2.2.3, page 51.
Unauthorised reports (such as ALR, ALJR, FLR, Fam LR, A Crim R) are legitimate records of judgments; however, they should only be used if an authorised report for a case is unavailable or yet to be published. They are often published much faster than authorised reports. A case might be reported in several report series.
A reported case may not have an authorised version, because:
it comes from a lower court, or
it does come from a higher court, but it was not deemed to be judicially significant enough at the time.
An unauthorised report can be cited when no authorised report is available.
These are cases that have not been formally published in a law report series, either because they are too recent to have reported version yet, or because they were not considered judicially important enough at the time.
Many cases are never reported, so the unreported case is often the only recorded version.
Unreported case reports are produced by the courts and are usually available within a few days of judgment.
Since around 1999 they have been freely available online in medium neutral format.
Older unreported decisions from before this date have a special format and are not freely available online. See the Australian Guide to Legal Citation (AGLC), rule 2.3.2, pages 56-57.
If a case is important, it will likely be reported in several different law report series.
The version of a case to be cited should follow the preference order below (from top to bottom). This is from the Australian Guide to Legal Citation (AGLC), section 2.2.2, page 50:
|Law Report Version||Examples|
|Authorised report (preferred)||CLR, FCR, VR, NSWLR|
|Unauthorised report (generalist)||ALR, AJLR, FLR, ACTR|
|Unauthorised report (subject-specific)||A Crim R, ACSR, IR, IPR|
|Unreported (medium neutral citation)||HCA, FCA, NSWSC, VSC|
|Unreported (no medium neutral citation)||See the AGLC rule 2.3.2, page 56|