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English Law: Cases & Digests

Case Reporters & Digests

Judiciary of England and Wales

For an explanation of the judicial system in England and Wales, see the Courts & Tribunals Judiciary website which offers an explanation of the structure of the courts and tribunals system.  A useful chart showing the structure of the court system is available.


The law library collects the English Reports in print.  The English Reports includes case law from 1220-1865 in 178 volumes that were published between 1900 and 1932.  English Law Reports are available in Hein Online.  (A title search in MarqCat for English Reports shows availability through LLMC - use HEIN for its enhanced search functionality). Prior to 1865 there was no officially sanctioned reporter for English case law.  As such these reports are called the nominate reports and are identified by the name of the person who wrote the report. 

In November of 1865, the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting (ICLR) began compiling cases in Law Reports which is considered the most authoritative reporter because cases published are reviewed by judges prior to publication.  The first series of Law Reports was published in 11 divisions (1865-1875).

The second series (1876 – 1890) contained 6 divisions.  As a result of changes in the organization of the court system, the third series of Law Reports (1881-1890) contained 4 divisions of reports:  Appeal Cases (which cover the House of Lords and Privy Council), Queen’s Bench Division, Chancery Division and Probate Division (f/k/a Probate, Divorce and Admiralty but commonly called “Wills, Wives, and Wrecks”).  The fourth series (1891 – current) contains those same four divisions:  Appeals, Queen’s Bench, Chancery, and Probate; with Probate being renamed in 1972 as Family Division.   Finding aids include digests and indices from 1865-1950, with decennial indices from 1951-1980.  Monthly and annual cumulative indices from 1981 are also available.  Law Reports are shelved on the third floor. The print version of Law Reports was discontinued in 2009 and replaced by an online subscription to ICLR

Since 1953, Weekly Law Reports were published to bridge the delay in publication of Law Reports that resulted from including the arguments of counsel.  Weekly Law Reports historically published approximately three times as many cases as were eventually published in the Law Reports. 

The law library collects Weekly Law Reports in print from 1953 – 2002.   Weekly Law Reports are issued in three volumes.  Generally, those reports contained in volumes 2 and 3 are eventually republished in the Law Reports once reviewed by judges.  The library collected volume 1 from 1953 - 1986.  From 1987 through 2002, the library collected all three volumes.   Finding aids include, in each issue of Weekly Law Reports, a cumulative table of cases and an index of the subject matter.  Annual cumulative indexes are also useful finding aids.  Cases are included in chronological order of issuance. 

The library collects All England Law Reports (1936 -1995 with some spotty collection between 1996-1998).   The arguments of counsel are not included. Citation and cross reference to Halsbury’s Laws, Halsbury’s Statutes, Halsbury’s Statutory Instruments, and the Digest are included.  As such, while there is considerable overlap between All England Law Reports and English Reports, it is not entirely duplicative.  Researchers should check both sources for complete research. 


Subscription Databases

The Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales, ICLR, offers law reports dating back to 1865 (The Law Reports, The Weekly Law Reports, Industrial Cases Reports, Business Law Reports and Public & Third Sector Reports). 

Both Westlaw and Lexis contain Law Reports: 1865 - present.

Westlaw offers Weekly Law Reports from 1953.  Lexis does not due to the fact that it offers All England Law Reports.  Lexis scope note indicates that Lexis specifically monitors Weekly Law Reports.

Lexis offers All England Law Reports from 1558.  Use breadcrumb: Area of Law - By Topic/Foreign Laws & Legal Sources/England & Wales/Caselaw.  Westlaw does not offer All England Law Reports.



Current Law Yearbooks (1952 -2003), first published by Sweet & Maxwell in 1947, are based on a Current Law Consolidation which covers 1947-1951.  Following that, annual volumes of Year Books were issued.  These yearbooks are divided into four jurisdictions: UK, England & Wales, European Communities, and Scotland & Northern Ireland.  Current Law Yearbooks are kept up to date by The Current Law Monthly Digests.  The yearbooks are an annual consolidation of the Monthly Digest.

From 1952- 1998 the law library collected the Current Law Yearbooks.  From 1999 – 2003 the law library bound the Current Law Monthly Digest by year.

The Digest (1971 – 2016),a Butterworth/Lexis’ publication, is currently in its third reissue.  The green-band reissue edition began publishing in 1971 and 2nd reissue began with v.22 in 1988.  The Digest is arranged by subject and offers brief summaries of British, Commonwealth (Canada, Australia and New Zealand) and EU cases as well as cases from the European Court of Human Rights.   It also includes subsequent judicial history.   Researchers rely upon it for finding older cases which are not included in the Current Law series.  The Digest is updated by a cumulative supplement and a quarterly survey.





Updating or Validating Case Law


The law library subscribes to a citator for UK law, Just Cite. It is used in much the same manner as West's Keycite or Lexis' Shepard's.  Nevertheless, it is worthwhile to consult the help guides before your first use.  Users are encouraged to explore the Precedent Map in particular.  

JustCite does not provide full text versions of many of the items included on the citator results list.  JustCite is meant to be a tool that can be used to identify leading cases and relationships between cases. To obtain the full text of opinions and legislation, you will have to use other free services or print materials, as noted in this research guide.


Fast Find

Case Law

From 1865 - current


From 1936 - 1995

All England Law Reports print

All England Law Reports Lexis

From 1953 - current

Weekly Law Reports print (1953 - 2002)

Weekly Law Reports Westlaw

From 1865 - current

Law Reports print             (1865 - 2009)

Law Reports Westlaw

Law Reports Lexis

From 1220 - 1865

English Reports Print

English Reports HEIN

English Reports CommonLII

Just Cite

The law library subscribes to a citator service, Just Cite.  It is similar to WestlawNext's Keycite and Lexis Advance's Shepard's.

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