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The 25 most-cited cases in Australian history
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The 25 most-cited cases in Australian history

House v King

The top case in Australia by citations has 50 per cent more mentions than its closest competitor, according to a new study.

Online case law tool FirstPoint has identified House v The King (1936) 55 CLR 499 as the case with the most citations. This case had drawn a total of 1,200 significant mentions in judgments as of June this year.

House v King is famous for establishing under what circumstances an appeal should be considered.

The ruling stated that a result should be reviewed by an appellate court if a judge acts upon a wrong principle, allows extraneous or irrelevant matters to guide or affect them, mistakes the facts or does not take into account some material consideration.

Additionally, if the original judgement is “unreasonable or plainly unjust” the appellate court may infer a failure to exercise discretion.

The case that came in second place was Project Blue Sky Inc v Australian Broadcasting Authority (1998) 194 CLR 355, which has lasting significance as it set parameters for declaring legislation invalid.

In third place was M v The Queen (1994) 181 CLR 487, which holds firm in legal memory for establishing grounds for setting aside the verdict of a jury.

High Court decisions dominate the top 10 most-cited cases. Colgate-Palmolive Co v Cussons Pty Ltd (1993) 46 FCR 225 is the most-cited Federal Court decision and R v Thomson (2000) 49 NSWLR 383 is the most-cited state or territory court decision on the list.

The most cited decision outside the High Court or Privy Council is Goode v Goode (2006) 206 FLR 212, a decision of Full Court of the Family Court.  

A number of recent cases also made the list, including Aon Risk Services Australia Ltd v Australian National University (2009) 239 CLR 175, which has accrued nearly 550 citations in under six years.

Top 25 Most-Cited Decisions

  1. House v The King (1936) 55 CLR 499

  2. Project Blue Sky Inc v Australian Broadcasting Authority (1998) 194 CLR 355

  3. M v The Queen (1994) 181 CLR 487

  4. General Steel Industries Inc v Commissioner for Railways (1964) 112 CLR 125

  5. Jones v Dunkel (1959) 101 CLR 298

  6. Briginshaw v Briginshaw (1938) 60 CLR 336

  7. Codelfa Construction Pty Ltd v State Rail Authority (NSW) (1982) 149 CLR 337

  8. Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs v Wu Shan Liang (1996) 185 CLR 259

  9. Kioa v West (1985) 159 CLR 550

  10. Singer v Berghouse (1994) 181 CLR 201

  11. BP Refinery (Westernport) Pty Ltd v Shire of Hastings (1977) 180 CLR 266

  12. Craig v South Australia (1995) 184 CLR 163

  13. Pearce v The Queen (1998) 194 CLR 610

  14. Fox v Percy (2003) 214 CLR 118

  15. Aon Risk Services Australia Ltd v Australian National University (2009) 239 CLR 175

  16. Plaintiff S157/2002 v Commonwealth (2003) 211 CLR 476

  17. Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs v Yusuf (2001) 206 CLR 323

  18. Australian Broadcasting Tribunal v Bond (1990) 170 CLR 321

  19. Chan Yee Kin v Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (1989) 169 CLR 379

  20. Goode v Goode (2006) 206 FLR 212

  21. Minister for Aboriginal Affairs v Peko-Wallsend Ltd (1986) 162 CLR 24

  22. Colgate-Palmolive Co v Cussons Pty Ltd (1993) 46 FCR 225

  23. Wyong Shire Council v Shirt (1980) 146 CLR 40

  24. Port of Melbourne Authority v Anshun Pty Ltd (1981) 147 CLR 589

  25. Ebner v Official Trustee in Bankruptcy (2000) 205 CLR 337
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