How to: Find a Case

Find a case after visiting a court on an court education program can sometimes be difficult for students and others who participate in court education programs.

This, the first in our series of ‘How To’s’, is designed to allow them, and you, to find that case!

To successfully find the details of a case you will need the following information or as much of it as you can recall or reassemble from the notes you took during your  observation.

Date, Time and Location

Date: To start your search you need to know what date you saw the case. This will need to be as accurate as possible. 

Time: What time of day did you observe the matter – just after lunch or perhaps it was the first matter of the morning. This details is particularly important in Lower Courts which may have 30 matters per day or more!

Location: Which courthouse and in which court room were you conducting your court observation

Jurisdiction and Name/s of the Parties

Jurisdiction: What jurisdiction was the case heard in? Be aware that not all jurisdictions are ‘reportable’. This means that not all judicial officers have to write their decisions down or upload them onto a case law database site.

For example: Supreme Courts cases are always reportable due to the Supreme Court being a superior court and therefore ‘a court of record’, however, lower courts such as a Local Court or Magistrates Court will only report their cases when they are legally significant. 

Name/s of the Parties: If the matter was a criminal case, the Crown/Prosecution will be represented by either R, Regina or The Queen. The letter ‘v’ is pronounced ‘and’ and then the surname of the accused person. In civil matters the names with be of the plaintiff and the respondent.

You will need to take careful note of the spelling of the people’s names. This can be done by looking at the published court list on the day.

Judicial Officer and Type/Stage of the Matter

Judicial Officer: The title and name of the judicial officer can be helpful to have – particularly when looking for matters that were heard in a busy list court. Their title will be either Justice, Judge, Magistrate or Registrar followed by their surname.

Type/Stage of the Matter: The type of matter eg: sentencing, trial, mention etc. The stage of the matter may be the closing arguments of  a criminal trial or the arraignment of an accused or perhaps a sentencing judgment.

This information can sometimes be obtained from the court officer or one of the lawyers in the courtroom.

Facts of the Case

What was the matter about, was it a criminal case, what was the charge or the evidence presented? If the matter was a civil matter, what was discussed, was it an equity case or commercial or perhaps negligence? What were the facts that you observed?

Now you are Ready to Find the Case

The last step is to take the information you have put together and start your search. If the case is current then a polite email to the staff of the judicial officer with the above information can sometimes answer your questions. If the case is decided and a judgment published then using the advanced search feature of a legal database or a state based case law website. To find these go to our  links page.