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Sources of Law - Case Law: Case Citation

Introduction

Case citation is a systematic format used to identify a particular case. There are two types of commonly used case citations: neutral citation and law report citation.

Although sequence of information may vary, depending on the use of citation style, the display of information within a case citation generally includes the following components:

  1. Parties’ names;
  2. Abbreviated form of court/ reporting agency;
  3. Judgment/ publication year;
  4. Judgment number/ first page of reporting.

For more details on citation style, you may refer to our Legal Research & Writings guide.

Tips - Make Use of Case Citator

Case citator contains alternate citations, a case summary, citation history, cases cited by a case and subsequence cases of a case, together with its treatment, through which you could trace whether a case is still in good law. You may find some examples below (arranged in alphabetical order):

  • The Canadian Abridgement (3rd edition) (PR KG51 C7 A e3)
  • Case Analysis (Westlaw Asia) - this feature is shown after clicking a particular case

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Neutral Citation

Neutral citation is assigned by the court of judgment. Since it is independent from law report citation system, it is considered as “neutral”. Legal authorities of different jurisdictions have introduced the implementation of neutral citation in different period of time. For examples, enactment in the UK was made in 2001, while Hong Kong was made in 2018.

Below is an example of the 622nd judgment made under the Hong Kong Court of First Instance in 2022:

Want to know more about neutral citations of different jurisdictions? Check out the links below for some selected jurisdictions (arranged in alphabetical order):

Law Report Citation

Instead of addressing which court the judgment was made from, law report citation indicates the law report in which the case was reported and where to find it (i.e. volume number and number of first page). Judgments published in law reports are the preferred version for court submission by legal practitioners and those reported in authorised law report are of higher priority. These authorized law reporting agencies are generally recognized or selected by the judicial unit of that jurisdiction for publishing.

Below is an example of a case reported in the 2nd issue of the Authorized Hong Kong Law Reports and Digest in 2021:

Legal Abbreviation

Abbreviated form of court and law report is used to offer a quick presentation, and prevent the citation to be too lengthy. To look for abbreviated forms, you may make use of the Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations, which is available online and convenient to use. Also, the Index to Legal Citations and Abbreviations (R K112 R15) available from the Law Library’s Reference Collection (2/F) is an alternative tool in print format.

More references on legal abbreviations in Hong Kong: