Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Law Report Definition:

A serial publication which publishes, verbatim, judgments of a court of law.

Related Terms: Legal Citation, Neutral Citation, Law Journal

May include arguments of counsel although this is rare and is usually found only in older English law reports such as, the so-called Law Reports of the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England & Wales (ICLR).

The purpose of a law report is to publicize and distribute to the lawyers and judges judgments of the courts to widen the base of legal knowledge and to prevent two differing decisions on identical facts, or two differing legal theories on a same issue.

In Legal Research Handbook, the authors write:

"Law reports publish primary authority case law, which consists of judges' written opinions and tribunal board decisions....

"Law reports may cover judgments from a particular court level, a geographical region or cases on a subject area."

There are thousands of law reports in the world today, each with a distinct legal citation.

Some courts issue their own decisions, typically seconding a private commercial publisher to manage the printing and distribution.

Many law reports are the work of private companies such as LexisNexis or West Group, which have a dedicated group of lawyers that monitor the opinions of the courts for selection.

Further, many courts are taking advantage of the Internet to directly publish their judgments online, usually opting for a neutral citation when doing so. The law reports published by corporations, in print or electronic format, tend to be very expensive and out of the reach even to many lawyers, which makes greatly enhances the attraction of online publication directly by the Courts.

A significant issue is copyright in judicial decisions. Initially, law report companies asserted copyright over the entire law reports, making no distinction as to the actual judgments which were issued noit by law report staff but, obviously, by judges of the courts of the land. It has taken quite some time to correct this wrong position but, finally, law librarians taking the lead, the courts have stated what ought to have been obvious: no private law report company has any copyright on the judgment although to the extent that they have headnotes or case summaries or annotations by learned jurists, those parts are copyright.


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