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What Makes An Important Case? An Agenda for Research

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 December 2012


This paper is drawn from a presentation, by John Morison, that was made to a plenary session of the 43rd BIALL Annual Study Conference in Belfast, Northern Ireland 2012. The presentation introduced the audience to a research study, recently funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, entitled “What Makes an ‘Important Case’? A Study of the Creation, Transmission and Validation of Legal Knowledge”, and being carried out with Professor Gordon Anthony. The presentation to BIALL also attempted to engage the audience of legal information specialists with the specifics of the project and enlist their help in understanding how an important aspect of legal practice actually works. This paper has the same objective, and, additionally, it reports on some of the initial findings of the research which aims to develop a comprehensive sociology of legal knowledge.

Selected Papers Delivered at the BIALL Conference
Copyright © The Author(s) 2012. Published by British and Irish Association of Law Librarians

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1 ESRC Reference ES/I032630/1.

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37 Assange v The Swedish Prosecution Authority [2012] UKSC 22.

38 Mosley v News Group Newspapers Ltd [2008] EWHC 687 (QB) and MOSLEY v. THE UNITED KINGDOM - 48009/08 [2011] ECHR 774.

39 (A v Home Secretary [2005] 2 AC 68). Lord Bingham described this as the most important case that he had decided, commenting that “It was the first serious challenge under the Human Rights Act, and one felt the stakes were quite high.” (See

40 Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and Others, Ex Parte Pinochet [1999] UKHL 17.

41 Special Issue 135 Years of the Law Reports and the Weekly Law Reports (edited by R. Williams and P Magrath) ICLR, 4th Reprint 2007.

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43 [1893] 1 QB 256 CA.

44 [1932] AC 562 HL (Sc).

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49 See the Practice Direction (Judgments: Forms and Citation) [2001] 1 WLR 194.

50 There is also BAILII's Open Law Project which seeks to identify leading cases from the past and to make these freely and openly available on the internet. (See further This too will be an interesting aspect to our study particularly around the idea of importance.