Skip to Main Content

Legal Research Manual

This edition of Legal Research Manual builds on many previous editions. While the manual is designed principally for use with the first year legal research classes, upper year law students will also find it a useful reference.

Nominate Reports (pre-1865)

Prior to 1865, cases were reported by private court reporters. There were hundreds of reports series produced under their individual names (e.g. Keen, Barnewall and Adolphus), hence the term "nominate." However, the reports varied greatly in quality. Few law libraries possess a complete collection of these reports even though many of the principles enunciated in these cases continue to be cited today.

For convenience, these nominate reports have been collected and reprinted in three different series:

  1. The English Reports (ER)
    They are considered the most authoritative source.
    They are freely available from CommonLII and through our subscription to Hein Online. They are also available in print in the Law Library in room 220.
  2. The Revised Reports (RR)
    They only reprint cases from certain nominate reporters from 1785-1866.
    They are available through our subscription to HeinOnline.
  3. Selected cases in the All England Law Reports Reprint (All ER Rep)
    They are available through Lexis Advance Quicklaw Plus and partially freely available through HathiTrust. They are also available print in the English Law Reports section of the law library.

How to Find Cases in the Nominate Reports

1. You Have the Case Name Only

Online: Search as you normally would. The English Reports are freely available from CommonLII or through our subscription to HeinOnline.

In Print: Use the Table of Cases in the English Reports, the Revised Reports, the All ER Reprint, or even a more general source like The Digest. For example, if you look up the case name Boutts v Ellis in the Table of Cases to the English Reports, you can find that it is reported in 43 ER 502.

2. You Have the Nominate Citation Only (e.g., 4 De G M & G 249)

Online: You can search just with that citation in the English Reports in CommonLII or  HeinOnline.

In Print: You can find the various abbreviations of the nominate reports, and in which ER or RR volumes they are reprinted, in Raistrick's Index to Legal Citations and Abbreviations. Justcite has a very helpful chart, and HeinOnline features a Chart of Reports. This list of nominate reports is the central research tool to find reports of nominate cases.

Let's take an example. If you had the citation 4 De G M & G 249, you could look it up in one of these sources. It would tell you that De G M & G stands for De Gex, M'Naghten and Gordon Reports, which reports Chancery cases and consists of 8 volumes from 1851-1857. The volumes of ER (English Reports) or RR (Revised Reports) reprint this series. In this example, volumes 42-44 of the English Reports reprint De G M & G.

Once you located  volumes 42 to 44 of the English Reports, you would then need to look at page numbers. The page numbers on the inside top corner correspond to the original pagination of De G M & G. Flip through the pages until you find 4 De G M & G 249. The dark bold face numbers in square brackets interspersed throughout each page correspond to the original De G M & G pagination. Locate [249] and you have found your case, Boutts v Ellis.

Citation Note: The nominate citation should always be included in the complete citation: Boutts v Ellis (1853), 4 De G M & G 249, 43 ER 502 (Ch).