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Case Law Help

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The case law databases contain the decisions of judges in matters before a court or tribunal. In each decision the judge will go over the facts of the case, the relevant law in the circumstances, and then discuss how the law applies to the relevant facts. The judge may also refer to relevant legislation (laws or "acts" passed by parliament), regulations or international treaties. As a result, case law is often important in understanding how particular acts of parliament operate and apply day to day.

The NZLII case law databases include hypertext links to most references to other cases. These links are inserted automatically by our hypertext markup software, which uses complex heuristics to determine exactly which documents a citation might refer to. In most cases the links are correct, however sometimes errors are made due to the nature of English writing, and legal writing in particular.

Using Cases

Each case is preceded by a number of links. The meaning of these is as follows:

A full list of the cases databases available from NZLII may be found on the NZLII Databases page.

Searching for Cases

Database Coverage

When searching for cases, particularly older cases, you should check the NZLII databases page to ensure that we hold cases from the court or tribunal and for the years in which you are interested. Alternatively, you can check the individual case database "index" or home pages for this information.

Database Last Updated Date

Each cases database includes a database "last updated" date on the database index page. This is the date that NZLII last updated the database and does not necessarily indicate currency. The database is updated from data received from the court or tribunal. Although some courts and tribunals send their data in batches, many provide their data as soon as it is available.

Recent Cases

If you are searching for a recent case or transcript, you should always also check the "recent cases" or "recent transcripts" page for each of the relevant cases databases. This is because there is a delay between when a case is first published in a database on NZLII and when it becomes searchable. The case database indexes need to be rebuilt for a case to be searchable and this is done periodically.

By Party Name

Autosearch: When searching for a case by party names using the auto-search search type, start with the most general search and then, if necessary, refine it by making it more specific. For example, if you were searching for the case named "Peter Tao Zhu v. The Treasurer of the State of New South Wales", you should start with a search for "Zhu v Treasurer". This search returns the relevant results, whereas a search for the full names of the parties would fail because the Court has abbreviated the first party's name to just the surname.

Boolean: When searching for case names using the boolean search type, you can use the near operator to find cases involving two parties. For excample, to find cases where John Geoffrey Smith sued (or was sued by) Malcolm Bartholemew Brown, you would start with the more general search and type: smith near brown. Again, you could make this more specific if necessary, but it is always best to start with a general search using just the parties' surnames because Court sometimes abbreviate parties' names to just the surname or just the initials plus surname. Additionally, in cases which have many parties, Courts sometimes abbreviate the case name to, for example, Smith and Anor v Brown & Ors - where Anor means Another and Ors means Others.

By Date

When searching using the Boolean search type, you can limit the search results by year by searching the title field for the case name and for the year within 10 words of the title like this:

title(Minister for Immigration w/10 2006)

For cases, the date in the title is usually the date on which the decision was handed down.

Printing Cases

To print a case you can either use the "File > Print" function of your web browser, or click the [Download] link at the top of the page to get the RTF or ASCII version (where available) of the case, open it in your favourite word processor, and print it from there. If the page says that "No downloadable files are available" or "File not found" this means that NZLII does not have a downloadable version of the item.

About the Markup

Cases are "marked up" (ie hypertext links inserted) on a massively automated basis. We are constantly improving this process to add functionality. If you have suggestions, these are more than welcome. Please bear in mind that the mark up process is essentially heuristic in nature - that is, it is designed to make the occasional mistake. If you think that you can suggest a general approach to better taking into account the salient features which are inherent in most case law databases, please send us feedback.

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