Legal Dictionary

case citation

Legal Definition of case citation

Related terms

Definition of case citation


case citation (plural case citations)

  1. (law) A combination of numbers and abbreviations used in common law countries to identify the opinion of a court, including the names of the parties, case reporter, name of the court, year of the decision, and sometimes the page of the opinion that is cited.

Further reading

Case citation is the system used in many countries to identify the decisions in past court cases, either in special series of books called reporters or law reports, or in a 'neutral' form which will identify a decision wherever it was reported. Although case citations are formatted differently in different jurisdictions, they generally contain the same key information.

Where cases are published in paper form the citation will usually contain:

  • the title of the reports;
  • the volume number;
  • page number; and
  • year of decision.

In some report series, for example in England and Australia, the volumes are not numbered independently of the year: thus the year and volume number (usually no greater than 4) are required to identify which book of the series has the case reported within its covers. In citations of this type it is usual in these jurisdictions for square brackets "[year]" to be applied to the year (which may not be the year that the case was decided: for example, a case decided in December 2001 may have been reported in 2002).

The Internet brought with it the opportunity for courts to publish their decisions on web sites. Decisions of many courts from all over the world can now be found through the website WorldLII and its member institutes.

Most decisions of courts are not published in printed law reports. The expense of typesetting and publishing them has limited the printed law reports to significant cases. Internet publishing of court decisions resulted in a flood of information. The result was that a medium-neutral citation system had to be adopted. This usually contains the following information:

  • year of decision
  • the abbreviated title of the court; and
  • the decision number (not the court file number)

Rather than utilizing page numbers for pin-point references, which would depend upon particular printers and browsers, pin-point quotes refer to paragraph numbers.


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


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