Searching for cases

How to cite a case

To most law students, researching a case law is probably the most interesting area of their studies. Case law shows how the letter of the law is interpreted in the real world. As a matter of form, trials may result in rulings, decisions or orders. Among them, those deemed to have significant effects on subsequent trials are referred to as "case law".

To explain the roles of case law, let's look at an example of the Criminal Code - Former Article 200of the Criminal Code. - Former Article 200 was an article indicating that murderers of a lineal ascendant - or in other words, someone who murdered their own parents or grandparents - will be punished more severely than other murderers.

However, this article is now invalid because a 1970 ruling by the Supreme Court of Japan judged that distinguishing parricides from other murders was in violation of the constitution. Considering that it was ruled unconstitutional in 1970, the actual text of Former Article 200 was only recently removed when the Criminal Code was amended in 1995, and so remained in existence without enforcement for a very long time. This is a good example of the need for research on rulings when studying law. Statutes are first put in statutory form, and then become effective over society. However, as in the case of Criminal Code - Former Article 200, they cannot always adjust immediately to societal change. This is why rulings that change the contents of certain statutes are occasionally made.

This ruling is the famous "Ruling of heavier punishment on parricides as being unconstitutional". A quotation of the case law is provided below. Case law is typically described by the name of the court that made the ruling, followed by date of judgment, name of publication containing the judgment (abbreviated), and the volume and page number (for the first page only) of the publication.

This means that the ruling was made by the Court in Bank of the Supreme Court on 4 April 1973, and was published on page 265 of Volume 27 Issue 3 of the Supreme Court of Japan Penal Law Reports.

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