How to Read Case Citations

An important legal research tanslation skill is the ability to look at a case citation and understand what it means. Today’s Tip is in honour of the forthcoming 8th edition of the Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation.

There are plenty of  resources on legal citation, but these tips will help when you decipher citations:

  • round brackets at the beginning of a citation give you the year that the decision was released
  • square brackets at the beginning of a citation mean that you need the year in order to find the correct volume of the reporter to locate the case
  • digests case citations look the same as citations for full text decisions (ACWS is a digest – All Canada Weekly Summaries; so is AWLD – Alberta Weekly Law Digest)
  • neutral citations are generally only available for decisions from 1998 and newer
  • if you can’t figure out what is being cited, search the Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations
  • cases sometimes change names as they move through various levels of court

Did I miss any tips?

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