First Principles of Business Law

Sources of law: case law
8. The structure of a law report

8.1. Knowing what to look for




It can be difficult to understand a law report unless you know what to expect and look for.  Most law reports follow a discernable framework or pattern.

A judge will normally begin their written judgement by setting out the proven facts of the case. The judge will then  go on to state the particular questions, arising from the facts, that need to be decided to resolve the case. Then the judge will review the relevant law, very often describing the historical origins and development of particular rules. They may explain why or how a legal rule is being interpreted, extended or modified in deciding the new case.Then the judge applies the relevant rules to the facts of the case and draws conclusions. Finally, the judge will make an order to give effect to the decision reached.

The judgement in the decision of Electronic Industries Ltd v David Jones Ltd (1954) 91 CLR 288 provides an example of this structure. The text is color-coded to distinguish the various parts of the judgment.

  • The name of the case, information about the court and headnote
  • A summary of the material facts of the case
  • A statement of the particular questions that must be decided (the legal issues)
  • A review of the relevant law, its development and interpretation
  • The application of the the law to the facts to draw conclusions

Click here to see the color-coded judgement.

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