How do I cite court decisions or case law?


This question came to me from students in Psychology 3313, but I’ve tried to make my answers as general as possible! – HC

Citing legal information can feel like a really un-fun treasure hunt: our APA citation guide, for example, refers you to the Publication Manual, which refers you to Appendix 7.1 which refers to you to the Bluebook. Then when you look at the Bluebook the examples are American. Annoying.

So, first thing’s first:

  1. What country is your court decision/case from? If it’s American use the Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation. If it’s Canadian, use the Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation instead. Either way, these resources are located in the library’s reference section.  If it’s from outside Canada or the US I would suggest asking a librarian or emailing the Law Library’s reference desk.
  2. Build your citation. If you find the books difficult to understand (e.g. if you’re inexperienced with legal terminology, like me), I recommend checking out one of the following helpful resources for actually creating your citation. These guides are helpful as they break down the instructions in the Canadian Guide and the Bluebook.

Canadian guides:

    1. Queen’s University Library – Guide to Canadian Legal Citation
    2. Carlton University Library – Citing Legal Sources (see p. 2 “Citing Jurisprudence”)

American guides:

    1. Cornell University – Introduction to Basic Legal Citation (browse menu on the left)
    2. Georgetown – Citing Cases

If you’d like some additional assistance from a librarian, feel free to contact the Law Library (or come visit us, of course!)

How should I find case law for my Criminal Psychology presentation (PSY 3313)?


This question was asked by Psychology 3313 students preparing a presentation on serial killers, but this post may be of use for any Brescia student trying to find case law or legal information. For more advanced legal research help, we recommend contacting Western’s Law Library.

Before starting on criminal psychology research, I recommend trying to find the following information. Try looking at Lexis Nexis through www.lib.uwo.ca/databases, or by looking at general books/websites on the topic.  Even Wikipedia may give you this information.  It’s much easier to do proper academic research when you have the case details!

  • Parties involved
    • Accused, victims, lawyers, judges
  • Legal system/location of trial
  • Date of investigation
  • Details of the case

Next, try using one of the resources listed below.

Westlaw Canada

Western has recently provided Brescia students with a standard subscription to Westlaw Canada. This is one of the premier case law resources and can often be a “one-stop-shop” for undergraduate assignments. Legal journals, case law, court documents and more can be found here.  The added bonus is that, despite the name, information can also be found from a variety of countries including the United States, Australia, the EU and HongKong.

Westlaw Canada can only be accessed from on Western’s campus. You cannot access it from wireless or from Off-Campus, so you must use a library computer (any library on campus, including the affiliates, provides you with access).

To find Westlaw: visit www.lib.uwo.ca/databases and click “W” Use your case number or other information to find details on your case.

Free Material through the web

Open source case and legal information is also available. This is usually organized by the court system: make sure to pay attention to where your criminal trial took place or your accused was arrested. If you have trouble finding the court website for specific states or provinces, feel free to ask librarians for help.

Canadian Cases

  1. Canadian Case Law – All
  2. Canadian Case Law – Supreme Court Level
  3. Provincial Level

American Cases

  1. American Case Law – Supreme Court Level – http://www.supremecourt.gov/
  2. Search for State courts through Google!  Just make sure you’re looking at an official website

Attached below are the PowerPoint slides used for the library presentation.  These also include legal databases for journals, news sources and media archives (e.g. for ABC, CBC, CTV, or newspapers), and resources for finding legislation, whether Canadian or American.

Power Point Slides: PSY 3313 October 24 2013