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Law - Finding a Case from a Legal Citation

This guide provides a brief overview of how to find the full text of a case in the UBC Law Library, or in electronic format, if you have a legal citation to it.

Finding a Case from a Legal Citation

This guide provides a brief overview of how to find the full text of a case in the UBC Law Library or in electronic format from a legal citation. For situations not covered by this guide, consult a reference librarian.

All cases begin as unpublished cases. Some cases are included in sets of books called law reports; these cases are considered reported. Some cases are never published in law report series; they remain unreported cases.

The following are examples of references to unreported cases and how to find them.

Siddle v Poole (December 3, 1990), Doc CA010943 (BCCA).

  • The names of the parties are followed by the date of the decision. The docket number is assigned by the court. The jurisdiction & court level follows.
  • This is a 1990 case decided by the British Columbia Court of Appeal.
  • The first place to look for this case would be CanLII.
  • If the case is not on CanLII, try Lexis Advance Quicklaw Plus. In the search box, enter: siddle and poole. Both the BC Supreme Court and Court of Appeal case decisions appear in the search results.

British Columbia (Securities Commission) v Branch (February 27, 1990), Doc A882282 (BCSC).

  • The names of the parties are followed by the date of the decision. The docket number is assigned by the court. The jurisdiction & court level follows.
  • This is a 1990 case decided by the British Columbia Supreme Court.
  • The first place to look for this case would be CanLII.
  • On CanLII, there are parallel citations provided – 68 DLR (4th) 347; 43 BCLR (2d) 286. This means that since the decision was issued by the court, two different law report series selected this case for inclusion in their report series.

The following are examples of references to reported cases and how to find them.

British Columbia (Securities Commission) v Branch (1990), 68 DLR (4th) 347 (BCSC).

  • The names of the parties are followed by the year of the decision. The volume number, law report abbreviation, series statement, and first page of the case are followed by the jurisdiction and court.
  • For an electronic version of this case, try using CanLII.
  • To find this case in print, determine what DLR stands for.

There are many ways to find out the full title of a law report series, including:

  • Knowing DLR stands for Dominion Law Reports, look up this title in the library catalogue. The most direct way is to search under 'Title Begins With' for Dominion Law Reports.
  • The first record in the results list is for the Dominion Law Reports 4th series. Click on the title to find the location and call number in the Law Library: Level 4 KE 132 .A244. Go to Level 4, find that call number, look for volume 68, and turn to page 347.

There is one other type of citation. Because a case could be unreported or reported in many different law report series, a system of neutral citation was developed in 2000. The citation is assigned by the court. Because cases with neutral citations are newer cases, they should be found in CanLII. Examples follow.

Catalyst Paper Corp v North Cowichan (District), 2012 SCC 2.

  • This is the second case decided by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2012.

Voskoboinikova v Calgary Herald, 2000 ABQB 42.

  • This is the 42nd case decided by the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench in 2000.