Case law

6. Using citators to see judicial consideration

You should always determine whether or not a case is considered good law. A citator document, with its system of flags, symbols and annotations, will provide you with information about the litigation history of the case, as well as how the case has been treated by subsequent cases.

Check the flag or signal

In the citator document for your case, look for the symbol or flag appearing next to the party names. The symbol will give you an indication of the status of the case.

Red

A red flag or symbol indicates the decision has been reversed on appeal, or subsequently disapproved or overruled on at least one point of law.

Yellow

A yellow flag or symbol indicates the decision has subsequently been distinguished, explained, not followed. It may have some negative history but has not been reversed or overruled.

Green

In CaseBase, a green symbol indicates the decision has been applied, approved, followed, affirmed or upheld.

H

In FirstPoint, an enclosed H symbol indicates the decision has been appealed or has some litigation history, but that it has received no direct or negative indirect treatment.

C

In FirstPoint, an enclosed c symbol indicates that decision has been subsequently considered with no direct or negative indirect treatment.
Neutral The neutral symbol indicates the decision has been considered or cited.

The flag or signal will give you limited information about the status of the case, so you should always have a look at the case annotations as well. Annotations are single word descriptors that indicate the litigation history of the case, as well as how the case has been treated in subsequent judgments.

Check the litigation history

The litigation history section of the citator document outlines the path of the legal dispute through the appellate hierarchy. This may directly affect the reliability of your case.

Reversed

Red

Used where the decision has been overturned on appeal.

Varied

Yellow

Used where a case on appeal is only partially affirmed or reversed.

Affirmed

Green

Used where the decision has been upheld on appeal.

Subsequent judicial consideration

The doctrine of precedent means that judges are not only bound by decisions of courts higher in the same court hierarchy but very often consider decisions of those lower in the same hierarchy or decisions produced outside of the hierarchy altogether.

A citator document will provide you with an overview of the subsequent judicial consideration of your case:

  • CaseBase — Cases referring to this case
  • FirstPoint — Cases citing

The most common annotations used to describe the subsequent judicial treatment of a judgment and described in the table.

Annotation Definition

Disapproved

Red

Used when both courts are of coordinate jurisdiction, and the latter court has no power to overrule the earlier decision. A court may disapprove or criticise a previous decision and yet be compelled to follow it.

Overruled

Red

Used when a court refuses to follow the decision of a court that is equally positioned or lower in the court hierarchy.

Distinguished

Yellow

Used when a court decides that it need not follow a previous case by which it would otherwise be bound because there is some salient difference in facts.

Explained

Yellow

Used when a court interprets a previous decision and states what it means.

Not Followed

Yellow

Used in circumstances where both courts are of coordinate jurisdiction, and the latter court has no power to overrule but is also not bound to follow.

Questioned

Yellow

Used when a later decision questions decision but does not disapprove or overrule it.

Applied

Green

Used when the court is applying the principle of a previous decision to the present case, the facts of which are materially different from those of the earlier case.

Approved

Green

Used when a superior court approves an earlier decision by a lower court or court of equivalent jurisdiction.

Followed

Green

Used when a court is bound by the previous decision of a court of superior jurisdiction in a case where the facts were the same or substantially the same.
Cited Used when the primary case is merely mentioned by the court in the subsequent case, without comment.
Considered Used when the court discusses a previous decision but does not actually apply, disapproved, follow etc.
Referred Used when a case is merely referred to but not discussed in any detail.
 
Why might a judgment be given a yellow flag or symbol, indicating caution, in a case citator? 
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