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Main: Case Law

Westlaw NZ   |   Lexis Advance   |   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:

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


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.

Lexis Advance

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. If you want a basic overview of Lexis Advance features and functions click here.

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
  • CaseBase and fulltext options
  • Retrieval options

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.

Specalised resources

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.


England & Wales:

ICLR Online
Duration 5m 27s

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



Other Jurisdictions:

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Page last modified on February 23, 2018, at 02:38 PM