The Council of Law Reporting for NSW was established under the Council of Law Reporting Act 1969. The Council’s overall goal is the efficient reporting of judicial decisions in NSW, primarily for use by the legal profession and the judiciary.
The Council’s objectives are:
- to select judgments for reporting in NSWLR
- to make judgments efficient to use by producing reliable headnotes and other editorial material, such as indices and tables of cases cited in judgments
- to ensure that reports published in the NSWLR are as accurate as possible, by verifying all details such as citations and cross references
- to publish NSWLR as promptly and inexpensively as possible, without compromising quality.
Under Section 3 of the Act, the Council comprises:
- the Attorney General
- the Solicitor General
- the President of the New South Wales Bar Association
- the President of the Law Society of New South Wales
- seven members of the legal profession appointed by the Governor: five barristers nominated by the NSW Bar Association and two solicitors nominated by the Law Society of NSW.
In each jurisdiction there is one series of authorised reports approved by the judiciary, the government and/or the official law reporting council for that jurisdiction. In some jurisdictions, and in some areas of law across jurisdictions, there are also unauthorised series of reports.
- Authorised reports, which are rigorously reviewed prior to publication, include cases that elucidate general principles or points of law.
- Unauthorised reports are generally faster to publish because they do not go through the same process of review.
- Not all judgments are reported.
If cases appear in both authorised and unauthorised series, courts in all jurisdictions require citations from authorised reports.
Authorised reports of judgments of the courts of NSW
As the record of legal precedent for the State since 1970, the New South Wales Law Reports – the NSWLR series – has set excellent standards of reliability and quality. The publisher of the series, the Council of Law Reporting for NSW , ensures that all reports published in the NSWLR maintain these standards consistently:
- Judgments that contribute significantly to the interpretation, development or application of the law in NSW are selected for publication in the NSWLR by the Editor, Perry Herzfeld SC, who brings his legal knowledge and experience as a practising barrister and author to the role.
- All NSWLR reports include concise but accurate headnotes and catchwords that are drafted by Reporters with specialist expertise. They identify the findings of enduring importance to the courts and the legal profession, rather than to the parties involved in the case. This makes the reports effective for use in the preparation of legal argument.
- All references and citations in the text of a judgment are verified rigorously and all text is styled consistently for efficient use in legal research
Whether preparing written submissions or presenting their case in court, legal practitioners rely on reports in the NSWLR for their accuracy, clarity and legal value.
The NSWLR publishing process involves five main steps:
- The NSWLR Editor considers the judgments and decisions of the superior NSW courts – notably the Supreme Court (Court of Appeal, Court of Criminal Appeal) – and selects those judgments that will be significant in the development, interpretation and/or application of the law in NSW. Of the thousands of judgments delivered by the courts each year, only about 2 percent are reported. The Editor’s selection shows practitioners and researchers which decisions are most important in the development, application or interpretation of the law in NSW.
- The Assistant Editors oversee the drafting of headnotes by Reporters with expertise in the relevant area of law. Headnotes include catchwords that are based on the subject matter index so they are efficient to use in legal research. The court is invited to comment on proposed headnotes, which may be amended to incorporate judges’ suggestions.
- Staff in the Council’s editorial office verify the judgment. All citations, quotations and references are painstakingly checked and corrected where necessary, and the text is styled so that it is clear and consistent with editorial conventions. Reports published in the NSWLR will be a basic legal reference for many decades to come so the Council invests considerable resources in presenting them as accurately and elegantly as possible. Significant irregularities or ambiguities identified through the verification and copyediting of NSWLR are referred to the court; the judge may subsequently revise the relevant passage of the judgment for publication on Caselaw.
- Once the headnote has been approved by the court, the report is typeset electronically. This makes the formatting and referencing – including pagination, paragraph and line breaks – hold true when the report is printed and wherever it is published online. This ensures the reliability of NSWLR references in court.
- A subject matter index and accurate tables of cases and statutes cited in a part are generated electronically, then checked manually, once all of the reports in the part have been completed. Similarly, an index and tables for a bound volume are generated electronically once the five parts of the volume have been completed.
In order to maintain the quality and reliabiltiy standards set by the Council of Law Reporting, all material published in the NSWLR is checked, cross-checked and checked again – from both legal and editorial perspectives – at each stage in the publishing process.