Legal Editing – rules for the citation of court judgments

The following rules for the citation of court judgments are adopted by Murrays Legal Commentary.

The need to publicise them in this article, and invite their adoption, arises from some frustration at the way court judgments are cited in judgments themselves, and in legal text books and articles

The Rules

The rules are:

  1. The relevant court’s medium neutral citation is always to be used – eg, [2017] NSWSC 37
  2. If there is an ‘official’ court citation as well, that should follow – eg (2016) 89 FCR 22; (1990) 55 SASR 103
  3. Then:

3.1. for books and articles, use the case report citation of the private publisher, if any:

CCH/Wolters Kluwer                       (2014) 32 ACLC 14-001

LexisNexis                                           (2014) 99 ACSR 214

Thomson Reuters                             (2002) 170 FLR 86

3.2. for court judgments, use whatever is available or convenient.


The benefits of using proper citations are:

  • Ready access to the law – many lawyers and most lay people don’t have access to the law reports of the private publishers;
  • Accuracy – a private publisher citation makes it difficult to identify the court, whether is a trial or appeal judgment, and sometimes the year of publication;
  • Speed – medium neutral citations of the courts are published within hours of the judgment being delivered; private publishers can take weeks or months.

Other rules soon

Rules on the use of judicial honorifics, gender neutrality, the plural pronoun, id ibid, (“the Act”), Latin, the subjunctive, citing textbooks, and more, will follow in a later guide.

Comments welcome.

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2 Responses

  1. Where do you stand on priority between non-authorised reports. Should ALR/FLR go before specialist reports like ACSR ACLC?

    1. Jason
      For non-authorised reports, generalist reports – ALR – come before specialist – ACSR.
      But I don’t really see the need to go down the full list of private citations; space is usually at a premium and as I suggest, use only the medium neutral, any official report, plus the citation of the publisher, if any.
      Any more looks rather tedious: for example, Pape v Commissioner of Taxation (2009) 238 CLR 1; (2009) 257 ALR 1; (2009) 83 ALJR 765; (2009) 72 ATR 580; 2009 ATC 20-116; [2009] HCA 23.
      As to “authorised” reports, their days are numbered, in my view; as, in due course, are non-authorised reports.
      As for text books …..

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