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Case Law

Westlaw NZ   |   LexisNexis NZ   |   NZLII   |   Maori Land Decisions   |   International Cases

Case law content

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 LexisNexis NZ, 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 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.


Cases by Title or Citation
Duration 4.05

  • Searching by title or citation on the basic search screen

Cases by Keyword
Duration: 2.56

  • Cases template
  • using keywords and search symbols
  • Excluding Australian content
  • Filtering
  • BriefCase
  • CiteCase

Cases by Act
Duration: 3.29

  • Locating Act and section.
  • the Related Documents tab
  • finding a specific case


CiteCase

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.


LexisNexis NZ

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 searcch a discrete collection by going into it the using the searchbox.

Locating a specific case
Duration 5m 45s

  • Locating a case by case name.
  • Results on Lexis Advance
  • Locating a case by citation
  • Advanced template

Finding cases by keyword
Duration 6m

  • Searching for cases by keyword.
  • Results
  • Narrowing results
  • Retrieval options

Casebase
Duration 1m 10s

  • Finding the casebase entry
  • Citation Symbols
  • Citing and Cited references.

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 LexisNexis NZ 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 if 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.


Maori Case Law

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 Maori Appellate Court of New Zealand Decisions 1955 onwards and Maori 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]


Specalised resources

  • 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 our Case analysis sources page.

International Case Law

The best place to look for non-New Zealand case law differs depending on what you want, as the databases cover different things. For North American material both Lexis and Thomson Reuters Westlaw (TR Westlaw) offer similar coverage so just use the one you are most comfortable with.

Australia:

  • Westlaw NZ has recent cases and the full run of CLR.
  • Lexis has some Australian reported 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 TR Westlaw. The first of these is probably the easiest option.
  • If you are looking for other cases you can try TR Westlaw, Lexis or BAILLII.
  • Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674-1934 may also be useful, but probably more so for those doing historical research.

ICLR Online
Duration 5m 27s

  • Finding Cases by citation.
  • Cases by keyword.
  • Downloading Cases.

Canada:

  • Both TR Westlaw and Lexis 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.

US:

  • Both TR Westlaw and Lexis have a comprehensive coverage of US material so either will do.
  • US Supreme Court Reports are also on Hein.
  • Google Scholar has US case law but it is probably not the most useful option.

Other Jurisdictions:

  • TR 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.