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The Anatomy of a Law Report

Session Cases follow a traditional formula in laying out each law report. The key elements of each report being:

  • Case Name: the name by which case is commonly known. Where there are two parties the first named is the one bringing the action (known as the Pursuer in Scotland, the second being the person defending the action, the Defender).
  • Date of the Opinion (judgement)
  • Court making the decision
  • Judge(s) In civil cases judge or court being appealed from. In criminal cases, judges hearing the appeal.
  • Parties to the case with their full, formal names and the names of their advocates (or solicitor advocates) in court in italics.
  • Catchwords: in italics, identifying the key legal issues and legislation discussed and ruled on in the case. Where more than one issue is discussed the catchwords are divided into separate paragraphs.
  • Headnote: the reporter’s full summary of the case. This is divided into paragraphs, providing:

    • A summary of the applicable law;
    • The facts and background to the case;
    • A summary of any previous court decision being appealed against;
    • A summary of the main arguments made by the parties lawyers;
    • What the court has held, i.e. a précis of the findings of the court;
    • Any other comments made by judges (“obiter dicta”)
    • Reference to any specific case being overruled, followed, upheld or commented upon.
  • A summary of the procedural history of the case
  • Earlier Cases and the legal Textbooks referred to in the course of the Opinion
  • The Court: the names of the judges who heard the case
  • Opinion(s): the judgement of the Court as delivered by one or more of the Judges hearing the case.
  • Decision: a formal statement of the Court’s decision on the action(s) brought.
  • Solicitors: the names of the Solicitors for the parties.