Just launched: Find Case Law
Americans looking for copies of court opinions have it easy.
The Legal Genealogist wouldn’t kid you about that.1
With the digitization of thousands of volumes of published court opinions dating back to the start of the Republic by the Harvard Law School Library’s Caselaw Access Project and their free availability on the project’s website Case.law, we really do have it easy finding what courts said about the cases they decided.2
Not so for our colleagues across the pond. The notion of one-stop shopping for British court judgments — even recent court opinions — has been a pipe dream.
The National Archives of the United Kingdom has just announced the launch of its own project, Find Case Law, to make it easier for researchers of all stripes to “find, view and download judgments and tribunal decisions.”3
Don’t get too excited just yet.
The website is still in its very earliest stages — the National Archives is calling it an alpha service, not yet even in beta stage, and its current coverage is modern cases only. At the moment, the earliest case available via the Find Case Law site dates back to 2003: “The initial collection of judgments and decisions will total 50 000 dating back to 2003 for court judgements and 2015 for Tribunal decisions. Users will be able to search by neutral citation, party name, Judge’s name, court / chamber and date.”4
At the moment, then, what we have on Find Case Law is a repository for court cases going forward, with a databank of about 20 years worth of court opinions from the past. You can read the full announcement at the National Archives UK website..
What makes the announcement so intriguing, however, is this sentence: “Going forward, The National Archives will continue to work with the Ministry of Justice and the Judiciary to include judgments from more courts and tribunals and to add historical judgments to the service.”5
How far back into history? We don’t know. How soon will that happen? We don’t know.
Remember that while we as genealogists think of national archives as repositories of the treasures of the past, they are also very much the repositories of today’s records, to protect them and make them available into the future.
Clearly the initial emphasis of this new service from the National Archives of the United Kingdom is in that category right now: it is ensuring that recent records are collected, digitized and made available.
But even the possibility that it will “add historical judgments to the service” in the future?
It’s enough to make genealogists and other historians salivate.
And maybe even enough to get some of us to use the feedback link at the top of the page to let the Archives know how much we’d like to see those historical judgments…
Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “New source for UK court records,” The Legal Genealogist (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : posted 27 Apr 2022).
H/t to Geneanet for alerting me to the announcement…
- About lots of other things, sure, but not that. ↩
- See Judy G. Russell, “Reading the law again,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 27 Aug 2019 (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : accessed 27 Apr 2022). ↩
- Find Case Law, National Archives of the United Kingdom (accessed 27 Apr 2022). ↩
- “The National Archives to publish court judgments,” The National Archives News (https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/about/news/ : accessed 27 Apr 2022). ↩
- Ibid., emphasis added. ↩