Westlaw NZ contains reported and unreported case law from a wide variety of New Zealand courts and tribunals. The database is particularly strong on unreported cases. It also contains the Australian content previously housed on Thomson Reuters Westlaw's international platform. The reported version of cases found in reporter series such as the NZLRs, DCRs etc are not available from Westlaw NZ as these are published by Lexis Advance, and so can be found there.
How do I find case law in the database?
You can search the case law collections in various ways:
- Using Basic Search box at the top of the main screen on Westlaw NZ's home page and selecting either the Title or Citation options.
- From the Cases search template accessed by clicking the cases link on the home screen.
- Finding any cases related to an Act or section of an Act.
- You could also choose to "drill down" by Product Title or Practice Area and search just a single source such as BriefCase, or a Practice Area such as Employment Law.
The videos below show you how to search the database for cases.
- Searching by title or citation on the basic search screen
- Cases template
- using keywords and search symbols
- Excluding Australian content
- Locating Act and section.
- the Related Documents tab
- finding a specific case
Cases which have a positive history (have been cited or followed by other cases) are generally considered to be "better law" than those that have been overturned by a subsequent decision. The CiteCase system indicates any later treatment of a case by using flags and symbols each with a slightly different meaning. The image below shows some of the more frequently used ones, see the full symbol explanations for the full range. You can get a brief description of what any given symbol means by hovering your cursor over it when you see it next to a case name.
How do I find cases?
There are several ways to find cases on Lexis Advance. The easiest of which is simply to use the search box at the top of the screen. You can also use the advanced cases template or search a discrete collection by going into it using the searchbox. A basic overview of Lexis Advance features and functions is also available.
- Searching by title or citation using the Find Box
- Basic search screen
- Locating Act and section.
- Legislation citator
- Cases template
NZLII and Courts Website
NZLII houses a treasure trove of old law reporters as well as the so-called "Lost Cases" that were only reported in 19th century newspapers. NZLII is a bit more "clunky" to search than the likes of Westlaw NZ and Lexis Advance so it is easier if you have a reference that gives more detail than "just" the case name. It also houses cases from many of the modern courts and tribunals, allowing access to these for those who do not have it via subscription databases. Due to eclectic and ever expanding range available via NZLII if the case you want is from a New Zealand court/tribunal and cannot be found elsewhere it is certainly worth trying NZLII.
Another place you can look for free and publicly available case law is the Courts website. There are links to both the Judicial Decisions Online as well as a decision finder that covers many of the different tribunals you might like to search. The cases on here tend to be from the last few years so for really old case law NZLII is still your best bet.
The Māori Land Court (Te Kooti Whenua Māori) and the Māori Appellate Court (Te Kooti Pira Māori) are continued under Te Ture Whenua Māori Act 1993. The Māori Land Court has been in existence in one form or another since the passing of the Native Lands Act 1862 and the Māori Appellate Court since 1894. The Māori Land Court has jurisdiction to hear matters relating to Māori land including successions, title improvements, Māori land sales, and the administration of Māori land trusts and Incorporations. The Court's Judgments page includes Māori Land Court decisions, 2001 onwards and Māori Appellate Court decisions, 1993 onward. New decisions are posted to the site fortnightly. The Judgments page also includes indexes for both the Māori Land Court and Māori Appellate Court decisions, in PDF format. You can also find decisions on NZLII which has Māori Appellate Court of New Zealand Decisions 1955 onwards and Māori Land Court of New Zealand Decisions 1948 onward.
The Library has a good selection of Māori case law in print. Some sources included in this list are held in our New Zealand Collection (NZC) which is also on Level 4 of the Library.
- Case law on tangata whenua consultation [KUQ1509.A29 1991.C375 Law Library and NZC]
- Māori Land Court Minute Books, 1865-1975 - kept in the Māori Land Court Minute Books section of NZC.
- Decisions of the Māori Appellate Court - the Law Library has decisions 1986 onwards [KUQ2107.M56N597].
- Important judgments delivered in the Compensation Court and Native Land Court 1866-1879 - (also known as Fenton's important judgments as Fenton was the Chief Judge). [KUQ716.7.A58B47 Law Library and NZC]
- Judicial decisions affecting Māoris and Māori land [KUQ716.7.A57J921]
- Tai whati: judicial decisions affecting Māoris and Māori land 1958-83 plus Supplement 1984-85: [KUQ716.7.A58J922 Law Library and NZC]
- Summary notes on selected decisions from 1993 onwards are available in the Māori Law Review [KUQ519.I64M296]
- CCH offers a case law collection that primarily focuses on Taxation, employment and health and safety law. The bulk of the material has a New Zealand focus, although there is material from Australia and some other common law jurisdictions.
- The Directory of Decisions is a listing of the different decision making bodies and gives information about them and where their decisions can be located. This listing is maintained by the University of Waikato Law Library.
- If you are wanting information on how to read and analyse a case then try one of the books mentioned in the Case analysis, mooting and opinion writing resources doc.
International Case Law
The best place to look for international case law may depend on what you need. If you want a quick general overview of cases from Australia, the UK, Canada and the United States try Lexis Advance. The jurisdiction switcher allows easy switching between jurisdictions and you can compare easily with NZ too. If you want a case from one of the ICLR "Law Reports" series' eg QB, CA then the ICLR database is where you need to go. You can also look on Thomson Reuters Westlaw for international cases and if none of these work then you can consider the LII family of databases. The following offers a break down of where to go or cases from key jurisdictions and there some videos demonstrating the databases in action.
- Westlaw NZ has recent cases and the full run of CLR.
- Lexis Advance also has some Australian case law content.
- AustLII has a good coverage of things not found elsewhere.
England & Wales:
- If you are looking for a case found in the ICLR reporters then ICLR online is your only option.
- If you are looking for a case from the ERs then you can use Hein, CommonLII or Thomson Reuters Westlaw. The first of these is probably the easiest option.
- If you are looking for other cases you can try Thomson Reuters Westlaw, Lexis Advance or BAILLII.
- Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674-1934 may also be useful, but probably more so for those doing historical research.
- Both Thomson Reuters Westlaw and Lexis Advance have good coverage of Canadian case law.
- The Supreme Court Reports are also on Hein.
- For cases you can't find in any of those places then try CanLII.
- Both Thomson Reuters Westlaw and Lexis Advance have a comprehensive coverage of US material so either will do. The latter is probably easier to use.
- US Supreme Court Reports are also on Hein.
- Google Scholar has US case law but it is probably not the most useful option.
- Thomson Reuters Westlaw and Lexis both offer limited coverage of other jurisdictions but you could also try the LII family of databases.
- English language versions of non-English case may be difficult to come across.
- Trying the Courts' own websites can be useful too.
If you need help with using the database, or with any of your research, you can contact us at the Law Library.