The distinction between a series of reports which is “authorised”, and one which is not, developed in England from about the 1790s. At the time, judgments were usually delivered orally without any official transcript being prepared. For this reason, the only contemporary law reports recording these judgments were private publications, prepared by barristers who were present in court, with the text of the judgment being based upon their own notes of the Judge’s oral reasons. Differing reports of the same judgment were commonplace. In these circumstances, some courts identified particular reporters as providing the most reliable record of their judgments, and commonly made practical arrangements with these reporters to further improve their accuracy.These arrangements usually involved providing the reporters with access to the Judges’ own notebooks or arranging for drafts of the proposed reports to be reviewed and corrected by the deciding Judges. These particular sets of reports were then recognised by the court as the “authorised” reports of its judgments. By convention, these reports were to be cited in preference to others.
This approach has continued into the modern era. In many common law jurisdictions, including England and Australia, a series of law reports may be characterised as the “authorised” reports of a particular court if it is recognised by that court as containing the most authoritative version of its judgments. This recognition is not usually accorded in any formal way. It is generally accorded by convention, as a result of the particular arrangements made in each jurisdiction to produce an authoritative record of the court’s judgments. These arrangements vary significantly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
In Queensland, the arrangements between the Supreme Court and the Queensland Reports are particularly close. It was through an initiative of the Supreme Court itself that the first Council of Law Reporting was established in Queensland, with Griffith CJ serving as its inaugural chairman. The explicit purpose of establishing the Council, as noted in the Preface to the first volume of the State Reports of Queensland, was to initiate a set of authorised reports. In 1907, when the ICLRQ was established, a different relationship with the Court was introduced. Whilst the constitution of the ICLRQ no longer contemplated that any Judge of the Supreme Court would be a member of the ICLRQ, it was the Judges who were vested with the power to appoint all members of the ICLRQ (other than its ex officio members) – with all appointments being made for only a single year (subject to renewal).
In the daily operations of the ICLRQ, there is a close working relationship with the Judges of the Court. The Supreme Court provides the ICLRQ with access to written outlines of argument, transcripts of argument and information about pending appeals. The Judges also review, and correct where appropriate, all reports of judgments which are intended for publication. The ICLRQ, in turn, seeks approval from the Supreme Court for any significant change in reporting practices.