Glossary of common legal terms
Act - The law made by parliament and often referred to as an Act of Parliament. Sometimes referred to as a statute or legislation.
Amendment - Change or alteration to existing legislation or acts.
Bills - A draft of a new Act or a draft of an amendment to alter an existing Act. Statutes or Acts of Parliament, start life as a Bill. A Bill must pass through a process of 2 readings in both upper and lower houses of Parliament before it becomes law.
By-laws - Laws made by statutory authorities or local councils contain details necessary to carry out specific matters relating to the Act. For example, the University of Wollongong Act 1989 (NSW) provides for the University Council to make by-laws covering a number of areas including the form and use of academic dress.
Case(s) - A term to describe a legal dispute.
Case Law - Case law is the general term for the legal principles "developed by judges" in determining legal disputes and is recorded in judicial decisions or judgments. It is often referred to as common law or judge made law or precedent.
Commentary - Any analysis or plain English version of a legal issue, case or legislation e.g. journal articles, textbooks
Common Law - General term for law made by judges and recorded in cases. Some of the countries that follow common law include Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States and Canada.
Delegated legislation - Delegated legislation emanates from an Act and contains details necessary to carry out specific matters relating to the Act. Also known as rules, regulations and by-laws. Delegated legislation is made by statutory authorities and government departments.
By-laws are made by local councils.
E-looseleaf service - An electronic version of a looseleaf service which is an information source containing legislation, cases and commentary on subject specific topics e.g. criminal law.
Explanatory Memoranda - A publication which explains the content of a Bill or regulation. It uses simple, non-legal terms and may be used to interpret statutes.
Judgment - see Case Law above
Note spelling of judgment in legal writing
Legislation - The term legislation refers to Statutes, Acts, Regulations, Rules and Bylaws.
Looseleaf Service - Loose-leaf services are a print information source containing legislation, cases and commentary on subject specific topics e.g. criminal law.
Regulations - Laws made by statutory authorities or government departments. Regulations are made under the authority of an Acts. Regulations contain details necessary to carry out specific matters relating to the Act. For example, the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Rules (Cth) provide a detailed list of elements that must be contained in a report written under s 53(8)(b) of the Act and regarding the movement of physical currency into or out of Australia.
Reported Cases - Any legal case reported and published in a series of law reports. Cases are only reported if they decide a new point of law or clarify a point of law. Cases may appear in authorised reports or unauthorised reports. Authorised reports are checked for accuracy by the judge or clerk and should be used where possible. Unauthorised reports are not checked by a judge or clerk for accuracy and the majority of law reports fall into this category.
Second Reading Speech - The second stage of a Bills progress through each house of Parliament. It contains the majority of the debate about a proposed law.
Unreported Cases - Legal cases not published in a series of law reports. The majority of cases are unreported. The Library has access to some unreported cases.
News and events
- News@Library - Spring 2014 issue