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RESEARCH SKILLS

FINDING LEGAL INFORMATION


Types of legal resources
Law has two types of information sources:

Primary
Primary sources represent original material and the body of the law itself and related publications. Primary information sources for law are publications that emanate from the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government at national, provincial and local level. There are different kinds of primary sources, eg. green or white papers, bills, statutes or acts, proclamations, regulations, by-laws, unreported court cases, reported court cases, the reports of commissions, treaties, conventions, Hansard and so on. Statutory materials such as the Acts of Parliament are available in print and electronically and are published in the Government Gazette. Publishers such as LexisNexis Butterworths and Jutastat provide access to South African legislation in printed and electronic formats. Significant decisions of the courts, not necessarily cases which receive a lot of media attention, but ones that will assist in the interpretation of the law in similar cases, are selectively and commercially published in various sets of law reports on a weekly or monthly basis. The earliest South African law reports date back to 1828. Prior to 1947, cases were published for each of the High Courts in the Cape Colony, Natal, the Orange Free State and the Transvaal. Since 1947, the Provincial and Supreme Court law reports were gathered into one publication - the South African Law Reports. Major sets of South African law reports include the following

UNISA LIBRARY University of South Africa 2011

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All South African Law Reports (Butterworths) (1828+) South African Law Reports (Juta) (1947+) South African Criminal Law Reports (Juta) (1990+) Constitutional Law Reports (Butterworths) (July 1994+) Arbitration Law Reports (Butterworths) (1998+) Labour Law Reports (Butterworths) (July 1994+)

Secondary
Secondary sources of information are works that emanate from primary sources of information but provide commentary on those sources. These include reference works such as dictionaries and encyclopaedias, books, theses and dissertations, journal articles, loose-leaf publications, indexes and abstracts. Reference sources are publications that are used to find factual or specific information, eg. the meaning of words, phrases, names of places, etc., and these include materials such as dictionaries, encyclopaedias, directories, etc. Legal reference sources contain information that is specific to law and include publications such as Butterworths Forms and Precedents, the encyclopaedia of South African law known as the Law of South Africa (LAWSA), and legal dictionaries, eg. RD Claassen's Dictionary of Legal Words and Phrases, etc. Books often provide a useful overview or in-depth examination of the relevant branch of law. Further information may be found in the footnotes of cases, books and articles, and in the bibliographies of books, articles, theses and dissertations, reports of commissions, and so on. Books will further refer the researcher to journal articles. The books housed in the Unisa Library may be located by searching the Unisa Librarys catalogue.

UNISA LIBRARY University of South Africa 2011

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The Annual Survey of South African Law is a useful source of information as it lists the legal developments of each year. Other useful South African law journals include Acta Juridica, the South African Law Journal, the Tydskrif vir Hedendaagse Romeins-Hollandse Reg (THRHR), the Tydskrif vir die SuidAfrikaanse Reg (TSAR), and De Jure, among others. Specialized legal fields such as labour law, commercial law and environmental law also have their own journals.

Locating legal resources


Printed legislation

The Acts are published in the Government Gazette and are collected in looseleaf or bound volumes by leading South African legal publishers, ie. Butterworths and Juta. The Government Gazette is a publication through which government makes its official announcements to the public, and an act does not become law until it has been published and proclaimed in the Government Gazette or Provincial Gazette. Draft bills, white papers, proclamations, government notices, commencement dates of statutes, etc., are published in the Gazette. Butterworths publishes a loose-leaf set of consolidated Acts, which are kept up to date by annual supplements. The set is arranged alphabetically by subject, eg. agriculture, constitutional law, criminal law, labour, etc. Within each subject or title, the Acts are arranged chronologically. The first volume is the index which contains both an alphabetical and chronological table of statutes and their corresponding volumes. Juta publishes an annual set of bound volumes of consolidated statutes, with an index that provides an alphabetical and chronological table of statutes, and the Gazette numbers where regulations or Acts may be found.

UNISA LIBRARY University of South Africa 2011

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Online legislation
The Acts and Regulations of Parliament from 1994 can also be sourced online in the Government Gazette and the Provincial Acts and Regulations from 1995 can be sourced online in the Provincial Gazette via the librarys homepage. These two databases are available off-campus, but treat the information with caution as the Acts and Regulations are not consolidated and do not include any new amendments made to the texts. These resources are therefore most useful for new Acts and Regulations. The library is considering a subscription to the Retrospective Government Gazettes, a new Sabinet database which provides searchable access to the full text of the Government Gazettes published between 1910 and 1993. Other online legislation can be found in the LexisNexis Butterworths Online products on the subject database pages and the Jutastat products on the Unisa Library CD-ROM Network (via the WinCDNet icon). These two resources are consolidated and indicate the date until which the information is current. Note that these two resources are not available to off-campus users. NetLaw: SA Legislation is a resource that offers full-text consolidated versions of the Acts and Regulations published after 1910 with references to relevant case law. This database forms part of the Sabinet Legal Products group of databases, and one of its great virtues is that it is available to off-campus library users. Online Bills, Acts and Regulations can also be accessed from various free Internet sites, but again, treat these sites with caution as the legislation posted there is not always kept up to date to reflect any amendments. These web sites are particularly useful for recent information, and include Government information website (www.polity.org.za) the official website of the South African Government (www.gov.za) the official website of the Parliament of South Africa (www.parliament.gov.za)

UNISA LIBRARY University of South Africa 2011

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Judicial publications
Printed cases
Judicial publications are published decisions and judgments of the South African courts. There is a list of references to decided cases related to specific sections for each Act at the back of each statute book. The list refers the user to the specific volumes and page numbers given in the Law Reports. The names of parties involved in a case can also be traced by looking in the Consolidated Index or Noter-Ups. There is also a list of cases related to each topic or subject in LAWSA, the encyclopaedia for South African law.

Online cases
The LexisNexis Butterworths Online group of databases publishes the full text of cases, and the Jutastat products are available on the Unisa Library CD-ROM Network (accessed via the WinCDNet icon). There are online sites which freely publish the full text of South African cases, eg. the Southern African Legal Information Institute (SAFLII) (www.saflii.org) the Constitutional Court of South Africa (www.constitutionalcourt.org.za) the South African Supreme Court of Appeal (www.justice.gov.za/sca)

UNISA LIBRARY University of South Africa 2011

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Secondary sources
Books
The Unisa Library has a large research collection of legal books and they may be located with the help of OASIS, the librarys catalogue.

Journal articles and other legal material


The library subscribes to several databases which index, abstract and provide the full text of selected legal and criminology journal articles and other legal documentation. These include:

Criminal Justice Periodicals (1981+) Criminal Justice Abstracts (1968+) Center for Rural Legal Studies, which may be entered via FirstSearch or Sabinet (articles on legal aspects of SA agriculture) Daily Law Reports (Juta) (unreported cases under consideration for publication in the South African Law Reports from 1997+) Government Gazettes (January 1994+) HeinOnline (full-text access to American and international law journals, legal classics, US Code and Supreme Court Reports, World Constitutions, United Nations Treaty Series, Kluwer Law International Journal Library, among others) Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals (1985+) ISAP (Index to South African Periodicals)(1987+), via FirstSearch or Sabinet Justis Online Legal Library (full-text EU legislation and case law, and UK and Irish legislation from 1235 and case law from 1163, including repealed Acts and measures)

UNISA LIBRARY University of South Africa 2011

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Legal Information Systems (legislation, case law, Bargaining Council agreements and commentary on SA employment law - updated monthly) Legal Periodicals Full-Text (1981+) Legal Periodicals Retrospective (1918-1981) LexisNexis Butterworths Online Making of Modern Law (American and British legal treatises 1800-1926) Parliamentary Bills (January 1999+) Provincial Gazettes (September 1995+) Sabinet Legal Products (includes Bill Tracker, Policy Documents, and more) Westlaw (full-text access to reported and unreported cases, legislation and selected literature for Australia, Canada, EU, UK and the US)

The library also subscribes to many electronic journal titles which can be found by using the Unisa Library e-Journal Finder.

UNISA LIBRARY University of South Africa 2011