ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT LAW REPORTS
WHAT ARE LAW REPORTS
In this article, I will be discussing something we know, talk about and use most of the times but we care little less of fully understanding its meaning and how the use started.
A modern law report gives the name of the case, its date, the court and the judges who sat in it, a headnote, an outline of the facts, the name of counsel, sometimes a summary of their argument and always a verbatim copy of the judgment. A case is usually cited by mentioned the names of the parties; the year or month of the case, the volume and the name of the law report and the page where the case is reported.
Before considering the list of law reports, it may be useful to know of the history of some foreign law reports which include the following:
“The history of the law reports fall into three main periods: the period of the ‘yearbooks’, the period of private reporting and the modern period. The yearbooks were originally written in Anglo-French (the court language of the middle ages) and they cover the period from 1283-1535”.
In the real sense of the word, law reporting commenced with ‘private’ reporting with individuals like Sir James Dyer who started his report in 1537. He was a Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas. By the end of the eighteen century, this mode of law report almost approximated the relevancy and accuracy of reports of the modern era. The most outstanding of them were the ones authored by Sir Edward Coke between 1572-1616 “and are to this day accorded the distinction of being referred to as the ‘The Reports’ by reason of their author’s unrivaled eminence. Sir George Burrow’s Reports (1756-1772) are also held in high esteem”.
The present reports in the United Kingdom include:
- Appeal cases covering the House of Lords and Judicial Committee of the Privy Council cited as A.C.
- Reports of the Divisions: Queen’s Bench Division (Q.B.), Chancery Division cited as (Ch) and formerly the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division cited as (Fam). Court of Appeal cases is not reported in Appeal cases but in the reports of the Division from which the case came.
- Weekly law reports cited as W.L.R. This started as Counsel published Weekly Notes (W.N.) in 1866 which contained summary reports of recent cases before it was elevated to a law report in 1953.
- The All England Law Reports which commenced in (1936) and cited mostly as All E.R. or A.E.R.
- The Times Law Reports (1884-1952).
In addition, there are specialist reports such as the industrial Court Reports (I.C.R.), Tax Cases (T.C), and Reports of Restrictive Practices Cases (R.P.). Commercial firms also produced special reports such as Lloyd’s List Reports now cited as Lloyd’s Rep., and Criminal Appeal Reports cited as Cr. App. R.
Let’s talk about the history of law reporting in Nigeria
The history of law reporting in Nigeria has been highlighted by Popoola in his review of the Nigerian Revenue Law Reports (N.R.L.R) thus:
“Law reporting started in Nigeria around 1874 with the publication of a series called the Renners Series which is a mere collection of the private reports containing divisions of the Supreme Court of the Gold Coast Colony given during the period of 1874 to 1886 when Lagos was administered as part of the colony. However, it was in the year 1916 that regular law report started in Nigeria with the establishment of the Nigerian Law Reports series (NLR) by the judicial department. While it lasted, the series covered selected Divisional Courts of the former Supreme Court and those of the Full Report together with a few decisions given during the period 1881 to 1955. Since then many law reports have made their debut on the Nigerian landscape”.
Of a lot of law reports, mention must be made of :
- All Nigerian Law Reports (from 1961)
- Law reports of High Court of Lagos State (from 1967)
- Western Region of Nigerian Law Reports (from 1960)
- Law report of the Eastern Region of Nigeria (1956-1958)
- Law Report of the East Central State (from 1970).
- The judgment of the Supreme Court of Nigeria (from 1972).