What are Nominate Reports?

Nominative Reports spines

A few weeks ago we wrote a blog post about bookplates and casually mentioned British nominate reports. Realizing that it is quite an archaic term, some explanation into their significance and their use in the legal world would be beneficial. Referred to as either nominate or nominative reports, these collections of decisions were usually published by individuals.

The first British nominates were published in 1571 and were normally referred to by the name of the reporter or the compiler of the report (e.g. Mylne & Craig’s Chancery Reports). When nominates first arrived on the scene, they were the only collections of court decisions available. Unfortunately, because they were often published by individuals, they also varied widely in their accuracy and reliability.

Most likely, the format of nominates that many lawyers and paralegals have come across in their research is through reprints. Nominates were reprinted in three different series: All England Law Reports Reprint, English Reports, and the Revised Reports, accessible in print and online in the Great Library.

The practice of publishing nominate reports in Britain quickly declined after 1865. This is when the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting started to publish the Law Reports, which was a single series reporter covering all major courts. The rapid acceptance by the legal community of these more authoritative reports of consistent quality meant that nominates ceased to be produced soon after 1865.

The British weren’t the only ones to have nominate reports. The first Ontario (Upper Canada) reports were modeled after British reports, meaning that we had a few nominates of our own. The earliest were Taylor’s King’s Bench Reports (1823-1827), Patrick, Contested Elections (1824-1849), and Draper’s King’s Bench Reports (1828-1831). It wasn’t long before Upper Canada made the move to law reports that were specific to the court or type of case and not the reporter. The first one to appear after the nominate reports was Upper Canada Jurist, first published in 1830. Ontario nominates did continue in more subject specific reports, such as Harrison & Hodgins’ Municipal Reports (1845-1851), but seems to have died out in the early 20th century.

If you are ever looking for nominates in our collection, all you have to do is ask. Currently, our British nominates are in the process of being moved into storage, but are always available to be retrieved quickly by one of the Great Library staff. Upper Canada nominates can be found in our Main Reading Room, shelved with the rest of the Ontario reporters in alphabetic order.