Leading Cases in Australian Law provides, in essence, a summary of the 200 most cited cases in Australian law. Each case note contains an outline of the facts, issues and decision, an extract of the most frequently cited portions of the judgment, commentary incorporating later decisions on the topic, and cross-references to the leading texts on the legal area of the case. Finally, under each case heading there is a single-sentence proposition for which the case stands as authority, and these are later collated in a table for easy reference.
This is the first book of its kind published in Australia, and it is intended to serve as a portrait of Australian law as currently practised. Appendices are included to complete this picture, providing further information such as lists of top cases by subject area, and a ranking of the most cited judges.
This book will be useful to law students, who will likely encounter most of these cases during the course of their degree, as well as to legal practitioners, who will find it a useful reference for the cases that have faded from memory since law school as well as the cases cited in daily practice.
From the Launch:
Sir Anthony Mason launches Australia’s first compilation of leading cases at Herbert Smith Freehills, 7 July 2016
Foreword by Chief Justice Robert French AC
The 200 Most Frequently Cited Cases
About the Authors
Table of Cases
Table of Statutes
200 Leading Cases in Australian Law
Selection from the ranked list of Leading Cases:
25. Markarian v The Queen (2005) 228 CLR 357
26. March v Stramare (E & MH) Pty Ltd (1991) 171 CLR 506
27. Waltons Stores (Interstate) Ltd v Maher (1988) 164 CLR 387
28. Postiglione v The Queen (1997) 189 CLR 295
29. Wyong Shire Council v Shirt (1980) 146 CLR 40
30. Port of Melbourne Authority v Anshun Pty Ltd (1981) 147 CLR 589
31. BP Refinery (Westernport) Pty Ltd v Hastings Shire Council (1977) 180 CLR 266
32. Commercial Bank of Australia v Amadio (1983) 151 CLR 447
33. Hospital Products Ltd v United States Surgical Corporation (1984) 156 CLR 41
34. Brisbane South Regional Health Authority v Taylor (1996) 186 CLR 541
35. Wardley Australia Ltd v Western Australia (1992) 175 CLR 514
36. Lowe v The Queen (1984) 154 CLR 606
37. Toll (FGCT) Pty Ltd v Alphapharm Pty Ltd (2004) 219 CLR 165
38. Colgate-Palmolive Co v Cussons Pty Ltd (1993) 46 FCR 225
39. Mabo v Queensland (No 2) (1992) 175 CLR 1
40. Devries v Australian National Railways Commission (1993) 177 CLR 472
41. Dey v Victorian Railways Commissioners (1949) 78 CLR 62
42. Cooper Brookes (Wollongong) Pty Ltd v Federal Commissioner of Taxation (1981) 147 CLR 297
43. Decor Corporation Pty Ltd v Dart Industries Inc (1991) 33 FCR 397
44. Warren v Coombes (1979) 142 CLR 531
45. Ainsworth v Criminal Justice Commission (1992) 175 CLR 564
46. Walton v Gardiner (1993) 177 CLR 378
47. Mill v The Queen (1988) 166 CLR 59
48. Chan v Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (1989) 169 CLR 379
49. Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs v Eshetu (1999) 197 CLR 611
50. Abebe v Commonwealth (1999) 197 CLR 510
Appendix 1: Alphabetical List of Cases and Propositions
Appendix 2: List of Cases by Subject Area
Appendix 3: List of Most Cited English Cases
Appendix 4: List of Most Cited Judges
Appendix 5: List of ‘Fast Riser’ Cases
This book considers 200 of the High Court’s decisions regarded as the leading cases in their respective areas of law. The book does not, nor is it intended to, provide a comprehensive examination of the decisions of the Court in those cases.
Nevertheless, for each of the 200 cases that are covered, the authors have provided succinct summaries of the material facts, the decision of the Court, the ratio decidendi including key statements by the justices, as well as insightful commentary and discerning use of quotes – all of which are covered in just two pages per case.
Aptly, the Hon Robert French, whom at the time of publication was Chief Justice of the High Court, has provided the foreword. As his Honour points out, one of the unique aspects of the book is in the authors’ approach in initially introducing the cases not alphabetically, chronologically or by subject matter, but rather by the frequency in which they have been cited in subsequent decisions. However, for those who prefer a more traditional form of categorisation, there are appendixes that list the cases alphabetically, by subject matter and by other categories.
There is no doubt that both the law student and the working lawyer will find this book a valuable addition to their library. The authors ought to be commended for their timely accomplishment.
David Kim, InPrint, Law Institute Journal Victoria, June 2017
As Chief Justice French, as he then was, makes clear in his Foreword to this extremely interesting new volume, there is a long tradition of books which compile leading cases but that tradition has not previously encompassed Australia. The authors … have produced a book which is steeped in history and yet highly innovative. It makes use of extensive legal databases now available to researchers in order to determine which cases have been the most cited in Australian courts. The authors further add to what is already available through legal databases by including concise but thorough sketches of what each case is about and providing a glimpse into why it has been cited so frequently. … it is certainly a book which is unlike any other produced for an Australian market and it fits that space so well that lawyers may well forget a time when it was not available. This is a testament to the great achievement of its very talented authors. Read full review…
Greg Weeks, Australian Journal of Administrative Law, 63, 2017
In 1837, John Smith, a 28 year old barrister and law lecturer from London set out to compile a summary of leading cases. His project served as a prototype for its genre for the next two centuries. Comparable works have been produced in the UK and US since. Reynolds and Goddard, in writing this book, set out to bring this tradition to the Australian shores for the first time. They have done a fine job.
Reynolds and Goddard have adopted a scientific approach in producing their list. All cases known to Australian law have been ranked by the frequency with which they have been cited in subsequent decisions.
The commentary Reynolds and Goddard provide on each case is useful to say the least. But as the authors note, the commentary is not a substitute for reading the case itself. To that end, I would encourage anyone with a legal mind or in the field to acquire a copy of this book. This is a useful text to have on the bookshelf and to acquaint oneself with the cases which were forgone whilst studying at university!
Rahul Bedi, Ethos, ACT Law Society, March 2017
This book gave me deep inner joy of a kind that law books are not generally noted for providing.
Its premise is simple: identify the 200 judgments which are cited most frequently in Australian courts, and give each a two-page summary treatment.
The outcome is snapshot of the business of our courts – the types of matters which appear most often at application, trial and appellate level, and the leading case for the principal propositions of law in each.
… The aim of the text is not to provide a detailed analysis of the cases. Nor is it to be a substitute for reading the actual decisions and reasoning. Each case is dealt with over only two pages, starting with a one-sentence statement of the principle for which the case is said to be authority. There is then a brief summary of the facts and the decision, a few key statements quoted from the reasons, a very short commentary on matters of note, and references for further reading.
To accomplish all this in only two pages per case is, to my mind, a triumph of the clear and concise “plain English” style of writing which we, as lawyers, vocally espouse but frequently fail to achieve.
… The book can be enjoyed on so many levels. I started by reading the table of contents to test myself on how many cases I could identify the proposition for. I, quickly, realised it was a collection of old friends. Read full review…
Angela Rae, Hearsay, November 2016, 77
As a rule, lawyers love lists. … From reading the summaries of the cases with which I am most familiar, including some which can be described as complex, I was impressed with the way the authors heroically wrestled each of them into the confines of two pages with a satisfying level of precision and coverage; clearly, much thinking has gone into the writing. … I very much enjoyed paging through its contents, revisiting some familiar authorities, some from as far back as law school, others of more recent acquaintance, and learning of others not previously known to me, mostly because they occupy territory in the legal universe onto which I have not dared to trespass. Clearly, the degree of satisfaction a practitioner might derive from this book will vary depending on whether he or she is a barrister or disputes lawyer, a real estate expert, a corporate/ commercial transactor, a criminal lawyer or something more specialist or esoteric. Administrative law, criminal law and procedure are heavily represented in the top 20 cases but after that the spread evens out across other disciplines. …
While practitioners will, I think, enjoy it and appreciate the refresher, I suspect that the most avid audience for it will be the student population, particularly at the undergraduate level. I remember well struggling through long and complex cases when pre-reading for a class, wishing for a crib or guide or even a hint as to what on earth they were all about. How I would have appreciated a two-page summary of the kind offered in this book as pre-reading to the pre-reading! Read full review…
Nuncio D’Angelo, Australian Law Journal, 2016, 90
Leading Cases in Australian Law is the first casebook in Australia, and the only casebook published in the 21st century, to provide succinct summaries and analysis of the most significant cases in Australian law at large. As Chief Justice Robert French notes in his foreword to the book, the text is part of a venerable tradition of casebooks dealing with leading cases in all areas of law. However, Leading Cases is a thoroughly modern iteration of its predecessors, and will serve as a very useful point of reference for present day students and practitioners. … The book serves both as an excellent primer for students as they study these leading cases, and a quick reference for practitioners, lest they forget the sources of the principles they most commonly rely upon.
Besides being a faithful reference book, Leading Cases is also an interesting read — an elusive quality in a casebook. Read full review…
Rohit Sud, Alternative Law Journal, Vol 41:3 2016
There are some ideas that are so
simple it is baffling they took so long to materialise. Many years after electronic case databases made legal research immeasurably easier, a hard-copy collection of leading Australian (and some British) case law has finally landed.
This is the first Australian work to carry on the tradition from the UK and US of collecting leading cases in a volume of casenotes. The editors have chosen a sound methodology for selecting the cases: only the top 200 most-cited judgments by Australian courts have made the cut. This not only gives a broad sweep of important authorities, but also ensures the relevancy and effective lifespan of the book’s contents are extended as long as possible.
The quality of the casenotes is excellent. Each contains a brief summary of the facts, a collection of rationes decidendi, additional insightful comments and sometimes an expanded formulation of principles from later decisions. References for further reading round out each case. The only quibble a reader might have is that useful information about the constitution of the bench has been left out, including the numbers and make-up of the majority and dissenting opinions. Dare I say it, the short summaries of facts and principles even make entertaining leisure reading for law nerds (which many of us are at heart, surely). The foreword by Chief Justice French contains a memorable defence of paper and ink publishing and a droll denunciation of the “frequent phenomenon of legal practice” in which “leading cases are cited like minor spells or cantrips in the hope that beneficial effects will flow simply from the invocation of their names.”
In spite of my initial scepticism, Leading Cases in Australian Law may prove to be a worthwhile addition to a professional library. It is an engaging read, a welcome refresher and a handy reference for the most oft-cited principles of our common law.
Joseph Sampson, Law Society Journal, August 2016
Whilst each decision of the Court is important to the litigants who agitate their interests in it and whilst some have wider application to a larger section of society, there are only a handful of cases which impact upon the character of Australian law for a sustained period.
… there are some well-known cases which appear in the top 20 and then others which might surprise.
This is a most interesting work which should be read by all lawyers and law students alike. The greatest benefit from reading it will be that which is indirectly conveyed; being the revelation of the connecting principles which underpin Australian jurisprudence across its wide variety of taxonomical categories. Read full review…
Queensland Law Reporter – 15 July 2016 –  27 QLR
[T]he Guide to the 200 Most Frequently Cited Judgments would add value to any law library and also act as a helpful book of reference to either the hard pressed law student, academic or the busy law practitioner. Read full review…
Emeritus Professor David Barker AM, Legal Education Digest, July 2016