chapter  6
10 Pages

Reading Case Law

BySimon Chesterman, Clare Rhoden

In this chapter, the authors explain some ways to make reading law reports easier, and improve the reader retention of what they read. Case law (or judge-made law) is the basis of common law and, along with statute law, is an important source of law in a common law legal system. The headnote is the summary at the top of the case written by the editors of the law report. Law is difficult to understand and is of little use in isolation from people and events. If the headnote does not give reader a clear picture of what has happened, skim through the judgments for an outline of the ‘material facts’. Judgments in an appeal are in response to previous findings by another court or courts. If the headnote does not inform the reader of the history, skim the opening of each judgment to find out who won in the previous trial and why.