Case Citation Guidelines for Common Law Jurisdictions

Case Citation
Guidelines for
Common Law
Mariya Badeva-Bright
This manual covers citation, media neutral citation and case naming
Case Naming Guidelines
Case Citation Guidelines for Common
Law Jurisdictions
Case Law Citation
In the content collection and management for NATIONALLII you will
work with two types of citation:
- a print Law Reports citation, e.g. Republic v. Chirwa, 7 MLR
8, which will be referred to as parallel citations from now on;
and the
- Medium Neutral Citation – a global standard for electronic
publication of judgments. The NATIONALLII system will
allow you to display both on the website, thus facilitating the
researcher in finding information.
General remarks on Law Reports and Citation
In its content collection, NATIONALLII publishes all judgments
without discriminating on the basis of reportability criteria. However,
as part of NATIONALLII’s offering of value-adds, we include here
the reportability criteria that Law Reports around the world have
adopted. This criteria may serve NATIONALLII to highlight
significant cases on the front page, thus assisting users with finding
information on NATIONALLII.
Which decisions are reported?
According to an article in t(1985) 59 (10) The Australian Law Journal
616-20 at 618-19, ‘novel law’ may be of a number of kinds, including:
(a) a decision of a question on which there is no binding authority or
no clear binding authority …
(b) a decision the reasons for which clarify the law where previously
its expression has been obscure
(c) a decision that an authority applies to novel facts, which may be
regarded as a special case of (a)
(d) a decision that an authority in another jurisdiction may be followed
here, so turning probability into certainty
(e) a decision that an old or criticised authority is still good law
(f) a decision in an area where the law is changing, either to show a
tendency that will lead to overruling earlier authority or to show that
the courts are not yet ready to go so far
(g) a decision explaining a decision the exact application of which was
Square vs. round brackets
Round brackets indicate that the volumes of the law report are issued
in continuous series, where the numbers of volumes are continuous
and consecutive. If the year appears in the citation in round brackets it
means it is not essential to locating the correct volume of the report
Round brackets should indicate the date the decision was handed down
rather that the date on which the judgment was published in the report.
This may lead to confusion when a decision is handed down and the
year of the decision differs from the date the report was published, or
where there is more than one year indicated in the report.
Square brackets indicate that the year is essential to locating the
correct volume. The year is essential when a law report series has no
volume numbers, uses more than one volume number within a year, or
restarts volume numbering at the beginning of each year.
The Medium Neutral Citation Standard
The legal profession relies on authority (case-law and legislation) and
persuasive secondary legal literature (scholarly works, preparatory
works, dictionaries, etc.) to build and present legal arguments. The
core purpose of case law citation is to accurately identify a judicial
opinion or a part thereof – traditionally, its location in a printed law
report series.
In traditional law reporting, case citations do not reflect information
about the case itself, but rather identify the year, volume and page
number of the law report(s) that contains the judicial opinion.
Case Naming Guidelines
October 2011 • 3
Case Naming Guidelines
References to specific parts of a judicial opinion (pinpoint referencing)
are also in general based on the page number and the paragraph letter.
The digitization of the judicial opinions allows courts to make
judgments available immediately through the Internet or other media,
in comparison to commercial publishers who take between a month
and sometimes years to publish a judgment in the law reports. While
obviously impacting on the greater accessibility of judicial opinions,
the legal profession and the media still need a reliable method for
referencing such electronic decisions. Substitutes for the commercial
publishers assigned citations and for page numbers must accompany
such judgments.
A survey of international practices in this regard shows that courts
have taken steps to address these issues by introducing Medium
Neutral Citations and Paragraph Numbering within the final
versions of judgments.
The Medium Neutral Citation (MNC) allows a resource such as a
judgment to be cited irrespective of its publishing medium, namely,
in print form or in electronic form, regardless of whether they have
been, or will be published in any printed law reports series. The
MNC serves as a permanent unique identifier assigned by the author
of the judgment and should remain associated with the judgment
wherever it is published in various media or publications.
The MNC enhances the discoverability of judgments across
publications, such as commercial law reports series, NATIONALLII
and other websites.
The MNC includes a global identifier of the issuing court,
made up from the ISO-3166-1 standard two-letter country code
and an abbreviation of the tribunal’s name.
The MNC should be assigned by the court to the final version
(filing and distribution version) of judgments.
The MNC includes the case name and the core part of the
citation: the year, the court identifier and the sequential
[<year of publication>] <court identifier> <sequential number>
Case name:
The MNC standard does not specify the make-up of the case
name. This is dependent on the law reporting practices of the
jurisdiction in which the court operates. Additional guidelines
will be provided.
Core part of the citation:
The year element represents the year the decision was
handed down, enclosed in square brackets (e.g. “[2007]”).
The court identifier follows the information relating to
the year of the decision. Each court has a distinct court
identifier. Different seats of the courts (e.g. a high court that
has seats in different towns in the country) are not included in
the court identifier unless they matters in jurisdictional terms.
The sequential number represents the consecutive
number of the decision in relation to other decisions handed
down in a particular year by the particular court.
Candlex Ltd v Katsonga is the first judgment handed down by the
Malawi High Court in the year 2004, hence the core MNC assigned to
the judgment is:
[2004] MWHC 1
Instead of paginating judgments, courts now have adopted the practice
of assigning paragraph numbers to distinct paragraphs within the text
of a judicial opinion.
Example from the Supreme Court of Namibia:
Case Naming Guidelines
October 2011 • 5
Case Naming Guidelines
[1] This is an appeal from the Special Tax Court of Appeal. The
respondent ( i.e. the appellant in the Court a quo), objected to a tax
assessment by the Receiver of Revenue in terms whereof it was
assessed at a rate of 55% of the money recouped in respect of the sale
of five of its vessels after they had ceased rendering services in
connection with the mining for diamonds to Namdeb Diamond Mining
Corporation (Pty) Ltd (“Namdeb”). The respondent maintained that
the taxable income, derived from the sale of the vessels, was subject to
tax at a rate of 35%.
[2] The respondent’s objection was disallowed by the Commissioner
for Inland Revenue. The respondent then launched an appeal to the
Special Tax Court where it was successful and where that Court
ordered that the assessment of that income be reduced in accordance
with the rate of normal tax of 35%.
[3] The appellant (i.e. the respondent, in the Court a quo) was not
satisfied with the outcome of the matter in the Special Tax Court and
thereupon appealed to this Court. According to sec. 76(9) of the
Income Tax Act, Act 24 of 1981 (as amended), an appeal lies directly
to this Court.
(Commissioner of Inland Revenue v Namsov Fishing Enterprises
(Pty) Ltd (SA 18/2007) [2008] NASC 6 (25 June 2008) )
Numbering paragraphs within electronic judgments effectively solves
the problem of pinpoint referencing in electronic judgments. There
may be a few details to be considered in terms of deciding what
constitutes a paragraph and how is a paragraph indicated, but in
general those will be addressed at a local court level.
Court Designators for courts in the NATIONALLII network
Creating Case Names
The following Case Naming guidelines are very basic. It is important
that each LII begins a consultation process to establish a set of national
guidelines. The coordinator could use the guidelines set out below and
the ones developed by the Canadian Citation Committee to form a
discussion document.
The case name is the part of the title of a published judgment which
generally refers to the main parties involved in a case, according to
the names of the parties laid out in the decision’s heading in full.
Case name
African Christian Democratic Party v Electoral Commission and
Others (CCT10/06) [2006] ZACC 1; 2006 (3) SA 305 (CC); 2006 (5)
BCLR 579 (CC) (24 February 2006)
The case name appears in the beginning of the long title of a published
judgment, before the case number and the core of the citation (MNC
and/or alternative citations).
Party names
Individuals are referred to only by their surname. The first name and
initials are omitted as well as any title, alias or other descriptive term.
Case Naming Guidelines
October 2011 • 7
Case Naming Guidelines
Use Surname, first letter capitalized; no first names
Robert T. McTeague Jr., SC
Terry Sean deWitt (a.k.a. Ross)
Mr. Robert Lepage-Johnson, Esq.
Mrs. Deborah Van de Wiel, a bankrupt,
Van de
Capt. Ali Mohammed Abu Sheika
Individual Acting in an Official Capacity
An individual whose name appears in the decision’s heading merely
because of his or her office in an organization or government body,
does not act personally.
Where a party appears in his official capacity, the letters NO follow
his surname (stands for Nomine Officio)
Eg. Bezuidenhout, Inspector General
Becomes Bezuidenhout NO
Estates of deceased persons are referred to by adding “Estate” before
the surname of the deceased person.
Estate Welch v Commissioner for SARS
Organizations are referred to by their full name as presented in the
decision’s heading
Omitted terms
Leave out The when this is the First word of one of the parties
Eg. The National Director of Public Prosecutions becomes National
Director of Public Prosecutions
Trade Names
Wireless Business Solutions (Pty) Limited trading as iBurst
Becomes Wireless Business Solutions (Pty) Limited t/a iBurst
Many cases
When the decision involves several cases and several case numbers,
separate judgment names and case numbers by semi-colons
Eg. Smith v Land Claims Commissioner; Jones v Land Claims
1234/2008; 4567/2008
More than one party
Cite the first party. If one other party refer to this party as Another.
Where more than one other party refer to these parties as Others
Eg. Jones and Another v ABC Bank and Others
Criminal cases
Where the State (or King) is one of the parties to a case
Abbreviate The State or State / King or Rex to S or R
R is always cited as the first party
Case Naming Guidelines
October 2011 • 9
Eg. Molimi and Jones v The State
becomes S v Molimi and Another
Molimi and Jones v Rex
becomes R v Molimi and Another
Case Naming Guidelines
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