Unreported Judgments and Law Reports

Learn about all the different types of judgments


The journey of cases Go To Top

When a judgment or decision is released by a court or tribunal, it is in an electronic format referred to as an unreported judgment. The database of unreported judgments thus contains almost every recent case.

There are many hundreds of decisions in Australian courts and tribunals each year, making it difficult to stay on top of which decisions are important. To get around this, publishers will produce a 'highlights' collection. When a case is deemed significant, it is reported via a series of bound volumes. Each collection is called a report series. An example of a report series is the Australian Law Reports.

In most publishers' online platforms, a significant case will have both a reported version and an unreported version present.

Journey of Caes

Report series vary in scope. Whilst some focus on cases from a particular court or jurisdiction (e.g. the Victorian Reports cover cases from the Supreme Court of Victoria), others can focus on a particular area of law (e.g. the Intellectual Property Reports select copyright, patents and trade marks case from a wide variety of courts and tribunals).

When should I use Unreported Judgments? Go To Top

If the Unreported Judgments database contains almost every case, why do we need access to report series?

Unreported judgments, although comprehensive, are not considered as authoritative as a law report. They are also less convenient for judges, as they do not have page numbers to refer to (remember they are never printed!).

Therefore, unreported judgments are typically never presented in court unless no reported equivalent exists. Then paragraph numbers are used instead of page numbers.

What is an authorised law report? Go To Top

Although reported cases are already considered to be authoritative, there is an extra level of authority that may be given to a report series. A court may determine that a particular report series will be authorised to reproduce reports of its judgments; this series is then considered the authorised report series.

In an authorised report series, the court must approve each judgment for inclusion in the series. Also, after a report has been prepared by the publisher, it is sent back to the presiding judge for confirmation of the report's accuracy.

Authorised Report Series

Authorised or un-authorised: weighing up the pros and cons Go To Top

While the courts prefer that the authorised report of a decision, if available, be used in court, there are in fact plenty of instances where you will find an unauthorised report series to be useful.

Authorised Report Series Unauthorised Report Series
More authoritative,  as they have been approved by court before publication Considered less authoritative than the authorised equivalent
Can take months to include a case Typically include cases much more quickly; are more current.
Must cover cases from a variety of subject matters Can be tailored to cover any given area of law, making it easier to stay up-to-date about important decisions in that area.


Referring to a case - case citations Go To Top

A judgment or decision may be cited in several different ways.

Before a case is released to the legal publishers, the court assigns it a medium-neutral citation. An example of this is [2009] HCA 5.

When LexisNexis includes a decision in the Unreported Judgments database (URJ), it is given a 'BC number' (Butterworths' Case Number), such as BC200900317.

Finally, if the decision is reported, it will have a citation that reflects its incorporation into printed, bound volumes - for example, (2009) 252 ALR 605 and (2009) 83 ALJR 377.

Citation Type
Applies To
Citation Format
Medium-neutral citation
[{Year}] {Court} {Sequential Number}
[2009] HCA 5
Unreported Judgment BC Number
BC{Year}{Sequential Number}
Law report citation
({Year}) {Volume} {Report Series} {Page Number}
(2009) 252 ALR 605


Finding the best version of the law reports online Go To Top

When accessing a reported case online, it is important to know where to find the 'PDF version' of the case. This is the version that looks exactly like a scanned copy of the bound volume. This is important as it retains the same page numbers as the hard copy. It is this version you will need to submit in court.

To access this version of the case, you will need to click on the PDF icon, located on the beige bar above the case name, as shown below.

PDF version icon

How does CaseBase fit into all this? Go To Top

CaseBase is a very different product to the full-text judgments we've discussed thus far. Unlike unreported judgments and law reports, CaseBase does not contain the full text (i.e. the complete transcript) of each case.

CaseBase is discussed in depth in a different tutorial. However, one feature of CaseBase that makes it useful in our discussion is that it can easily link from from the unreported version of a case to the reported version.

To link to the reported version of a case, use follow the below steps:

  1. When viewing the unreported judgment, click on the 'View Citator Document' link, or the CaseBase signal. This will take you to the equivalent CaseBase entry for the case you are viewing.
  2. At the top of the CaseBase entry (underneath the case name), you will find listed all the various citations that exist for this case. These will include citations for both the reported and unreported versions, and the medium neutral citation. Simply select the reported version you are after.

Linking to the Reported version