What Are Effective Case Law Citations in Essay Writing?

In view of the problems that many students all too often experience in this area, in this brief article I look to now take you through the intricacies of referencing case law in all subjects with a legal element to their study in the UK in particular. Therefore, this will prove especially useful for those studying English law or any subject areas with an English law element when writing your work.

With this in mind, when looking to cite case law in your work it is necessary to consider the traditional form of referencing case law for essay writing in legal subjects that looks to provide –

(a) Name of Case

This should be printed in italics or underlined (do not highlight or use different coloured ink)

(b) Year

This should be in square brackets [1992] or round brackets (1957). The majority of modem law reports use square brackets indicating the year is an integral part of the reference, but some series also adopt a system of volume numbering that runs consecutively through the series in which case the year is in round brackets and simply indicates the date the judgement was given.

(c) Volume Number

Many reports have several volumes each year numerically. As a result, the year will be in [square brackets] and will be an integral part of the reference, whilst those case law series that are numbered consecutively from the beginning will have the year in (round brackets).(d) Abbreviation for the Series

This indicates the series in which the law report is published – the All England Reports (All ER) is very popular. For your further information a full list of abbreviations can be found in Raistrick. D. S (2007) ‘Index to Legal Citations and Abbreviations’ 2nd Edition, London, Bowker-Saur or in the monthly parts and yearbook of ‘Current Law’.

(e) Page Number or Case Number

The page number is the number within the volume of the report where you will find the case.

Since 2001 some series have started using unique numbers of each case within each year. Therefore, for example, ‘[2005] 2 Cr. App. R. 4’ refers to the fourth case of volume 2 of Criminal Appeal Reports 2005.

At the same time, however, recent reports also number each paragraph, so that the precise point in the case may be cited. As a result, this is especially useful if you are quoting directly from a particular judgement. At the same time, however, it is to be appreciated that, in the past, particular passages could be identified by reference to the letter to be found in the margin.

(f) [Optional] Court

On this basis, it is always important to know which court made the decision and it is good practice to develop the habit of including an indication of the court at the end of the reference – for example, House of Lords (HL) and Court of Appeal (CA).

Examples – There are generally too forms of case law decisions to be cited –

(i) For civil case law decisions in a case like ‘Johnson v Phillips [1975] 3 All ER 682’, by way of illustration, it is usually the claimant (plaintiff) v defendant. As a result, the ‘v’ stands for ‘versus’ or ‘against’, whilst the case is normally referred to in direct speech in a court scenario, for example, as ‘Johnson & Phillips’.

(ii) For criminal case law decisions in a case like ‘R v Lynch (1966) 50 Cr. App. R. 59’, by way of illustration, it is usually the Crown v the defendant. Moreover, as well as the ‘v’ standing for ‘versus’ or ‘against’, ‘R’ stands for ‘Rex’ (‘the King’) or ‘Regina’ (‘the Queen’). This case would then usually be referred to in direct speech in a court scenario, for example, as the ‘Crown against Lynch’ or just ‘Lynch’.Neutral Citations

Moreover, it is also to be appreciated that, from January 2001, there has been an alternative method available for effectively referencing cases that was introduced to cope with the growth in the number of online reports that also proves very useful for the essay writing process. As a result, all of the case law decisions from the High Court and Court of Appeal have been assigned unique numbers so as to then be able to more easily identify the case since this new method of case citation for academic work also uses paragraph numbers within the case citation itself as part of the essay writing process in this area.

Example:

Grobbelaar v. News Group Newspapers Ltd [2001] EWCA Civ 1213.

Therefore, all case law is to be cited by the name(s) of the parties followed by the medium neutral citation in the essay writing process. Moreover, as well as the year when the case was cited, the reference in essay writing not only shows the legal jurisdiction, but also the court, the division of that court, the reference number assigned to the case by the official court shorthand writers, and (also often) a paragraph reference.