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Law Library Guide: Finding case law

This guide will help you understand and develop the skills necessary to conduct Legal Research

Starting point: Case Citations

When looking for cases your biggest asset is understanding what the case citation means. The citation reflects the name of the parties, the year the case was reported, the law report it can be found in (as well as the volume and page number) and lastly the division of court that the case was heard in.

Taking the example of Fedlife Assurance Ltd v Wolfaardt 2002 (1) SA 49 (SCA):

Name of Applicant Name of Respondent Year Volume  Law Report Starting page number Division of Court

Fedlife Assurance Ltd
v
Wolfaardt
2002 1 SA = South African Law Reports 49 SCA = Supreme Court of Appeal

 

Knowing which Law Report it is in is especially important - it can save you looking in the wrong place! 

Some acronyms of Law Reports are as follows: ‚Äč

SA = South African Law Reports                                                             

All SA = All South African Law Reports

BCLR = Butterworths Constitutional Law Reports

CPLR = Competition Law Reports

BALR  = Butterworths Arbitration Law Reports

BLLR = Butterworths Labour Law Reports

BPLR = Butterworths Pension Law Reports

 

A full list of legal abbreviations can be found here

How to start:

Firstly determine which database your law report is in - through the acronym.

Then select the database from the UCT Libraries page under the 'database A-Z' list, using the first letter of the database that you want to use (eg. 'L' for 'LexisNexis')

LexisNexis

LexisNexis (South Africa) contains the All South African Law Reports, the Butterworths Constitutional Law Reports, the Competition Law Reports, the Butterworths Arbitration Law Reports, the Butterworths Labour Law Reports and the Butterworths Pension Law Reports.

It also contains the All England Law Reports and the Canadian Rights Reporter.

                                    

Finding cases: Using the LexisNexis Law Reports search

Locate the 'Law Reports' search under the big search bar. Once you have clicked on it a box should pop up within the window.

Type in your case name within the 'Case Name' box and press search. A search results tab will open up.

Within the search results - look for the correct citation.

To refine search results - use the tab along the top to refine by Referenced Act, Year, Publication Source, Judge, Subject or Document Type.

TIPS:

If you choose to type in both the name and the citation - make sure you type in the full citation.

If no results appear - try redoing the search using only one of the parties names and refining your search results after the search is completed.

If all else fails - use the table of contents on the left to browse through the law reports - finding your year and volume to find your case

Juta

Juta contains the South African Law Reports as well as the Zambian, Namibian and Tanzanian Law Reports

                              

Finding cases: Using the Juta Law Reports search

Locate the 'Law Reports' search from the dropdown on the left of the screen. Once you have clicked on it a new screen will show on the main window on the right.

Type in your case name within the 'Case Name' box. Type in the year of your case in the first box of the 'Case Citation'. Click search.

Within the search results - look under the 'Parent path' heading and make sure that you select the case that comes from a Law Report (instead of an extract). Click on the case name and it will open up.

TIPS:

If your case doesn't come up - use only one of the parties' names and the year.

If you want to - type in the full citation when searching, but just the year should be sufficient.

If all else fails - use the table of contents on the left to browse through the law reports to locate your case by looking in the correct year and volume.

SAFLII

The Southern African Legal Information Institute (SAFLII) publishes legal information for free public access which comprises mainly of case law and legislation from South Africa.

SAFLII also hosts legal materials from other countries in the region which are obtained through partnerships, collaborative efforts and more recently through linking to other Legal Information Institutes established in these regions.

Finding cases: Using SAFLII

In the main search box on the page, insert your case name and press "Search". A results list should show your case. In order to view it, click on the title of the case and a new page will open showing your case.

If your case doesn't show, then try using the advanced search and clicking on the "this case name" box before pressing search.

TIP:

If your case doesn't show up in any search, it is possible to look for cases using the court that the case was heard in. Select 'South Africa' on the left hand column and then select your relevant court eg. 'Constitutional Court'. You can then browse cases by year and find yours.

Printing cases

Both LexisNexis and Juta let you print the cases directly from the databases.

To print in LexisNexis - click on the title of the case. A new tab will open up with the case in it. On the top left corner of this tab different icons appear. The second, third and fifth icons allow you to export the case either by saving it as a PDF, emailing it or printing it directly. Click on the item you want (I would recommend either save as a PDF or print directly).

To print in Juta - click on the title of the case. The case will now be open in the main screen. On Juta's top bar there are several options - one being print / export. Click on this. A new screen will open again - directly into the printing options. Make sure that you have clicked on the 'print the current document' line, and then click on the 'continue' button at the bottom of the options. The printing options should allow you to either print directly to the printers or to print the file as a PDF - therefore saving it.

Exporting in Juta - instead of printing, it is possible to export. When the print/export screen opens - click on the blue 'Exporting Options' title. Make sure you have clicked on the 'export the current document' line. It will now allow you to export the case - however Juta only exports in HTML, so all that will happen is a new tab will open in your browser containing only the case.