Reporting Process


Each report published in the Queensland Reports is produced through a detailed reporting process. The policy of the ICLRQ is that these steps should generally be completed, and reports of new judgments published, within 6 clear months of the date of judgment.

 

  • Case Selection - The first step in the process is the selection of cases for reporting.  This task is undertaken by the Senior Editor, who is responsible for examining the entire output of the judgments of the Supreme Court of Queensland each week and identifying the key new judgments which satisfy the criteria for reporting (set out below).  The Senior Editor also considers whether older unreported judgments, which have been identified in later judgments or otherwise as being significant, should be considered for retrospective reporting. For judgments of the Trial Division, the judgments will not be reported whilst they are subject to appeal. For judgments of the Court of Appeal, the judgments will be prepared for reporting even if special leave to appeal is sought – but a note to this effect will be included in the report.
  • Correction - The second phase in the process is the correction of the text of the judgments. There are three aspects to this phase. First, all citations and quotations are checked by Reporters’ Assistance to confirm their accuracy. Secondly, the text of the judgment is read by the Reporters to ensure that it is free from typographical or inadvertent error. Thirdly, any amendments are made which are necessary to convert the text to the style conventions of the Queensland Reports.
  • Headnote Preparation - The third phase in the process is the preparation of the headnote. For complex judgments, the headnote is prepared by the Editor or Sub-Editors. For other judgments, the headnote is prepared by a Reporter with expertise in the relevant area of law. The headnotes are prepared in accordance with the style conventions of the Queensland Reports. Catchwords are prepared which classify the main points determined by the judgment in conformity with the system of classification adopted by the Australian Digest. To assist readers in quickly analysing the judgment, the headnotes include a succinct statement of the material facts and the key propositions established.  Cross-references to the key passages which establish these propositions are also included. When preparing the headnote of an appellate decision, the Sub-Editors are provided with the outlines of written argument and transcript of argument on appeal. If argument is not already fully summarised in the judgment, a brief summary of argument is prepared for inclusion in the report. All headnotes, once drafted, are checked for accuracy by the Editor.
  • Preparation of Proofs - The fourth phase in the process is the preparation of proof copies of the proposed report. This involves liaison between the ICLRQ and external printers, with the ICLRQ’s Production Manager checking all proofs to ensure that they incorporate all changes and additions to the text of the judgment.
  • Authorisation - The fifth phase in the process is the submission of the proof copy of the report, together with the original judgment with any corrections or changes marked clearly in handwriting, to the deciding Judges for their review and the inclusion of any further corrections. Any further corrections which are made at this stage are referred to the Editor for confirmation.
  • Publication - The final phase is the submission of these corrected proofs to the external printers for inclusion in a monthly part of the Queensland Reports.

The selection of cases for reporting proceeds upon the overriding principle that the reported case must be useful for, what can reasonably be anticipated to be, lasting future reference.  Therefore, at a minimum no decision will be reported unless it adds in some way to what is already known about the existing state of the law.  That does not mean that only decisions which amount to a pellucid analysis or reconciliation of existing decisions or only decisions which make some substantial advance or alteration in relation to the development of the law are reportable.  There are many decisions which contribute to the development of the law in different ways.  It is generally accepted that the best practice for case selection involves the application of the following inclusionary and exclusionary rules many of which are taken from a variety of sources:

 

Inclusionary rules.

The categories of cases which are suitable for reporting are as follows:

 

Development of the law in Queensland.

The most important decisions for reporting are those which mark a development of the existing law such as the following types of decision.

 

  • The decision concerns a question relating to the development of existing principle, either to show a tendency that will lead to overruling earlier authority or to show that the courts are not yet ready to go so far.  Such decisions will include:

     

    • a decision which introduces a new principle or new rule of law;
    • a decision which materially modifies an existing principle of law or settles a doubtful question of law;
    • a decision which applies an existing principle of law in a novel area;
    • a decision that establishes that an old or previously criticized authority is remains applicable and good law.
  • The decision follows authority from another jurisdiction, thereby turning the probability of the applicability of that other decision into certainty.  Similarly, if in a determination, an authority from another jurisdiction is not followed in Queensland, such a determination is worthy of reporting.   Although it is now said that there is but one common law in Australia, nevertheless, where the Supreme Court of Queensland pronounces a position in relation to the Common Law, such a decision is appropriate to be considered for reporting regardless of whether or not the same or a similar decision has been made in another State or in a Territory.

Decisions which consolidate, confirm or explain existing principle.

There are a number of decisions which do not develop principle but which are appropriate for reporting because they confirm, explain or consolidate existing principle.  In this respect the following criteria are relevant:

 

  • The decision is one which re-affirms a principle which has not been decided for many years.  Such reaffirmation of principle is important where the point in question has not been the subject of judicial consideration for an extended period of time and some doubt may have arisen as to the continuing applicability of that principle.
  • The decision is one which explains an earlier decision, the exact application of which was arguable or, perhaps questionable.
  • A decision involves a determination whether or not a particular set of facts should be decided according to one well-known rule or another.  That is to say, that the decision determines whether or not certain facts are material or not to the application of a particular principle. 

Interpretative decisions. 

 

  • A decision which interprets or construes legislation or rules of court in a substantial way; including a case in which the language of legislation is definitively interpreted or the application of a rule or section is extended, modified or applied to obscure or unsettled points.  However, the interpretation of infrequently considered legislation is not usually considered a topic worthy of reporting.
  • A decision which interprets or construes the language of an instrument in widespread use such as:

     

    • a decision in which a standard form conveyancing contract is construed in a substantial way;
    • a decision in which clauses, phrases or words in common use in documents (eg, wills, contracts, insurance policies, charter parties) are construed. 

Socially or politically important decisions.

As the Queensland Reports are a permanent record of the workings of the Supreme Court, which workings themselves reflect events in society and politics, decisions which have a particular interest to a significant section of the community will occasionally be worthy of reporting.   On most occasions, given the peculiar circumstances surrounding such matters, an unusual point of law will be central to the decision.   Therefore, the following types of decisions are considered favourably for reporting:

 

  • decisions of substantial public, political or social historical value;
  • decisions of significance to doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers or other sections of the community.

Particularly instructive decisions.

Some decisions do not fit within the scope of the above criteria but may be considered for reporting on the basis that they are particularly instructive.  Such decisions may include:

 

  • a decision which brings the law together particularly where there is no relevant authority within the jurisdiction but there are decisions from other jurisdictions (for example, New Zealand, England and the Americas) where the relevant point has been considered.
  • a decision on a matter or a principle in relation to which there is a paucity of authority;
  • a decision which compendiously assembles the relevant authorities in relation to a particular principle or principles and restates those authorities in a concise manner. 


Exclusionary rules.

Without stating the obverse of all of the above it is important to identify the following exclusionary rules:
The following types of decision will not be reported save in the most unusual circumstances are:

 

  • a decision which has neither discussion nor consideration and are valueless as precedent.  Mere exemplars of the application of legal principles are not reportable.
  • decisions which merely apply existing principles to identified facts.
  • decisions which are wrongly decided.
  • decisions which are repetitious of what has previously been reported.