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Legal Studies: Citation Tools

The information and citations provided in the tabs below have been based on the 21st edition of The Bluebook: A Uniform System Citation.

Headings include section and page numbers for easy reference and more information. Students should refer to the paper copy available from the Nash Library Service Desk for complete citation information and formatting. 

Harvard Law Review Association, editor, publisher. (2020). The bluebook : a Uniform system of citation (Twenty-first edition).

The Bluebook
Spiral bound copy available on reserve for in-building use only. See staff at main Service Desk. 

Book Structure


  • Part 1 - Bluepages - a how-to guide for basic legal citation
  • Part 2 - heart of citation system consisting of 2 sections
    • Rules 1-9, establishes general standards of citation & style
    • Rules 10-21, presents rules for citation of specific types of authority
  • Part 3 - Series of tables to be used in conjunction with the rules.
Things to Keep in Mind
  • Many courts have their own rules of citation that may differ from The Bluebook. Check requirements before submitting documents.
  • Typeface
    • Tradition of underscoring maintained; Italics  may be substituted for underscoring in Bluepages.
    • Refer to Bluepages B2 (page 6) for additional Typeface conventions
  • Use the Whitepages when Bluepages or local court rules citation format is not detailed. 
  • Elements of a Citation
    • A signal
    • The source of authority
    • Parenthetical information
Structure (B1, pg. 4)

Briefs & Opinions (Non-academic legal documents)

  • Citations generally appear in document text immediately following the propositions they support. 
  • Footnotes should only be used when permitted/required by local court rules

Citation Sentences

  • Begin with capital letter and end with a period. 
  • A sentence may contain multiple citations separated by semicolons. 
  • Used to cite sources/authorities related to entire preceding sentence

Citation Clause

  • Set off from text by commas and immediately follow the proposition to which it relates.
  • Does not begin with a capital letter unless it begins with title of a source that should be capitalized.
  • Do not end with a period unless it is last clause in a sentence
  • Used to cite sources/authorities related to a part of a sentence
Signals (B1.2, pg 4-5)

Signal - shorthand message to the reader about relationship between proposition and the source/authority cited

Signal Use
[no signal]

Authority directly states a proposition, is the source of a quotation or was mentioned in the proposition

E.g., Authority is one of multiple authorities directly stating same proposition. 
Accord Multiple authorities directly stating or supporting the proposition, and another authority was mentioned in proposition. 
See Authority supports, but does not directly state proposition
See Also Authority provides additional materials supporting the proposition
Cf. Authority is different from the main proposition but sufficiently analogous to lend support
Compare . . . [and] . . . with . . . [and] . . .

Authorities are similar or different in important respects

Contra Authority directly states a proposition contrary to main proposition
But see Authority clearly supports a proposition contrary to the main proposition
But cf. Authority supports a proposition analogous to the contrary of the main proposition
See generally Authority is helpful background material related to the proposition

*** Refer to rule 1.3 for the grouping & ordering of signals
*** Refer to rule 1.4 for guidance on the order of authorities

Parentheticals (B1.3, pg. 5)
  • Used to include additional information to explain the relevance of the cited authority. 
  • Appears at the end of your citation, but before history.
  • Should begin with present participle unless short sentence/statement
  • Do not begin with capital letter or used period at end unless it is a quotation of full sentence.

Sample Bluepages example:

See Flanagan v. United States, 465 U.S. 259, 264 (1984) (explaining that the final judgement rule reduces potential for parties to "clog the courts" with time-consuming appeals).

*** Refer to rule 1.5 for guidance 

Subdivisions (B3, pg. 7)


  • Give page numbers before date parentheticals, without page abbreviations
  • Cite nonconsecutive pages using comas between page numbers
  • Cite volume numbers in Arabic numerals
  • See table T16 for list of subdivision abbreviations 

Quotations (B5, pg. 8)


General Quotation

  • Enclose quotations of less than fifty words with quotation marks. 
  • Place commas or periods inside quotation marks; place all other punctuation marks outside quotation marks unless part of quoted text

Block Quotation

  • Quotations of 50 or more words 
  • Should be single spaced, indented on both sides, justified without quotation marks
  • Direct quotes within block citation should include quotation marks
  • Citation following a block citation should begin at left margin of page on line following quotation
Full Citation (B10, pg. 11)

Includes the following 5 components:

  1. Name of case
  2. Published/unpublished source in which the case can be found
  3. Court and year of decision in parentheses
  4. Other parenthetical information (if any)
  5. Subsequent history of case (if any)

Case Names

  • Omit all parties other than first listed on each side of the "v."
    • United States v. Ellis Research Laboratories, Inc.

Not: United States v. Ellis Research Laboratories, Inc. and Robert W. Ellis

  • Use on individual's last names
    • Zinn v. Am. Commercial Lines, Inc.

Not: Angelina Zinn v. American Commercial Lines, Inc.

  • Omit words "et al." and "a.k.a.
  • Some cases may include a procedural phrase
    • Smith ex rel. Smith v. Mount Pleasant Public Schools

Not: Smith, by his Parents Kenneth W. Smith and Janet S. Smith, Plaintiffs, v. Mount Pleasant School District

  • Abbreviate words listed in Table T6 (pages 304-307)
    • Haas v. Jefferson Nat'l Bank
    • Buckeye Boiler Co. v. Superior Court
    • Omni Capital Int'l, Ltd., v. Rudolf Wolff & Co.
  • Abbreviate states, countries, and other geographical units using list in Table T10 (pages 312-318); Never abbreviate "United States" when it is a named party. 
    • Prieskorn v. Univ. of Mich. Health Sys.
  • Underline the case name abbreviating the widely known acronyms & select 8 words (see page 12)
    • State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. v. Tashire
    • United States v. Vital Health Product, Ltd.

Reporters and Pinpoint Citations

Cite a Reporter by Listing:

  1. Volume # in which case is published
  2. Abbreviated name of reporter (refer to Table T1, pages 227-298)
  3. The page on which case report begins

Pinpoint Citation (pincite)

  • Used to point reader to specific pages related to cited propositions.
  • Appear after the page on which the case report begins separated by comma.
  • May consist of a page range using an hyphen and drop repetitious digits - (1114-28)
  • Cite a footnote by giving page where it appears, "n." and the footnote number with no spaces - (1129n.5)

Court & Year of Decision

  • Appears in parentheses
  • Identify deciding court (except U.S. Supreme Court) followed by the year of the decision (refer to Table T1)
  • Immediately following page reference
    • Omni Capital Int'l, Ltd., v. Rudolf Wolff & Co., 107 S. Ct. 946 (1987)
    • Dubey v. Stroh Brewery Co., 462 N.W.2d 758 (Mich Ct. App. 1990)

Authority Parentheticals

  • Following date parentheses
  • Used to add information indicating weight of the cited authority to a citation
    • Phillips Petroleum Co. v. Shutts, 105 S. Ct. 2965, 2980 (1985) ("When considering fairness in [the] context [of interstate law choice], an important element is the expectation of the parties.").

Explanatory Parentheticals

  • Added to briefly explain proposition for which the case stands
    • George v. Omni Capital Int'l, Ltd., 795 F.2d 415, 424-27 (5th Cir. 1986) (en banc) (dismissing claims arising under federal law against defendants for lack of personal jurisdiction under long-arm statute of state in which district court sits)

History

  • Full citation should include prior/subsequent history of case
  • See rule 10.7 for exceptions
  • Use abbreviated explanatory phrases listed in Table T8 to introduce the history
    • United States v. Credit, 2 M.J. 631, 640 (A.F.C.M.R. 1976) ("The laws of many of the states provide for the release of lists of persons selected for jury duty prior to trial .... By rule of court in some of the Federal circuits and by Federal statute a more limited right of access to jury lists exists."), rev'd, 4 M.J. 118 (C.M.A. 1977).
Short Citation (B10.2, pg. 16)

After providing full citation to an authority, a short citation format can be used under the following conditions:

  1. It is clear to reader what is being referenced
  2. Full citation falls in the same general discussion
  3. Reader will have little trouble locating full citation

All acceptable short citation forms include "at" followed (if necessary) by a pincite

  • Dubey v. Stroh Brewery Co., 462 N.W.2d 758 (Mich Ct. App. 1990)
    • Dubey, 462 N.W.2d. at 760
    • 462 N.W.2d at 760
    • Id. at 760

Id. is the short form used to refer to immediately preceding authority. the "I" is only capitalized when it begins a citation sentence. The Underline always includes the period. (see page 17 for more id. examples)

Statutes, Rules & Restatements (B12, pg. 18)

Federal Statute Citation Includes:

  • official name of the act
  • published source where found
  • may include parentheses indicating year published or year statute passed
  • Nothing is underlined in a statute citation. 
  • "Section" is indicated by "§" symbol; plural - "§§" (see Rule 3.3)

National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 § 102, 42 U.S.C. § 4332.

Rule 12 (pg 120) provides full explanation of how to cite current codes, collection of session laws or a secondary source.

State Statutes

  • Cite an official code if available
  • Table T1.3 (p. 242) lists the official/unoffical statutory compilations for each state
  • Most codes include:
    • Abbreviated name of code (Table T1.3)
    • Cited section number(s)
    • Year of cited code edition (not when act passed)
    • Unofficial codes must include name of publisher in date parentheses
Citing from Constitution (page 119)

U.S. Constitution citation format

  • For State Constitution citations replace "U.S." with the state abbreviation from Table T10.
  • Abbreviate subdivision (articles and clauses) according to Table T16.
Citing from Federal Regulations

Cite federal rules and regulations to the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.):

Format: Example:
Title section/part (year) 48 C.F.R. § 16.101 (2021) 

Books/Nonperiodicals


Books/Treaties/Pamphlets, etc. (Rule 15, page 147)

Citation elements:
  • Volume number (if any)
  • Full name(s) of author(s) as written on publication
    • 2 authors - list as presented on publication separated by "&"
    • 3+ authors - list first author's name followed by "et al."
  • Title of publication (Underlined or Italicized)
  • Pincite
  • Year of publication, name of editor (if any) and edition in parentheses

 

William P. Statsky, Torts, Personal Injury Litigation 253 (4th ed. 2001).

Katherine A. Currier & Thomas E. Eimermann, The Study of Law: A Critical Thinking Approach 6 (2005).

Shawkat Alam et al., International Environmental Law and the Global South 124 (2015).

 

Periodicals (Magazines/Journals) (B16, pg. 23)


Consecutive Page Numbering Citation (Rule 16.4, pg 160):
  • Full name of author(s) as written on publication
  • Title of article (underlined or italicized)
  • Volume Number
  • Abbreviated Periodical Name
  • First page of the work, page or pages where material appears
  • Date of publication

Dean Zerbe, IRS Whistleblower Program: Update, 18 J. TAX PRAC. & PROC. 33 (2016).

-  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  

Non-Consecutive Page Numbering Citation (Rule 16.5, pg 160-161):
  • Full name of author(s) as written on publication
  • Title of article (underlined or italicized)
  • Volume Number
  • Abbreviated Periodical Name
  • Date of issue - as appears on cover "at" (comma)
  • First page of work,  page or pages where material appears

David Henderson, The CaseAgainst "CorporateSocial Responsibility," Poucy (J.OF THE CTR. FOR INDEP. STUD.), Winter 2001, at 29.

Christopher B. Hopkins, Internet Social Networking Sites for Lawyers, 28 TRIAL ADVOC. Q., Spring 2009, at 12, 13-14.

-  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  

When structuring the citation for an online resource:

  • Cite the same way as you would cite the physical print material
  • Combine print citation with electronic citation
  • Cite directly to the electronic version

-  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  

Library Database Examples

Laura N. Coordes, A Proactive Approach to Hospital Financial Health., 95 American Bankruptcy Law Journal 33–51 (2021).

Susan Low Bloch, A Report Card on the Impeachment: Judging the Institutions That Judged President Clinton, 63 LAW & CONTEMP. Probs. 143 (2000).

 

Newspapers (Rule 16.5, pg 161)


Print Newspapers

Similar to the non-consecutive periodical except:

  • Designate work as "Editorial," "Opinion," or "Letter to the Editor" between author's name and Title
  • After the date, give section designation (§) in which piece is found in parentheses if necessary to specifically identify the page 
  • Give only the first page of the piece and do not indicate the location of specific material

Michael Kelly, The Pardoner's False Brief, WASH. POST, Feb. 21, 2001, at A23.

Editorial, Unpardonable, WASH. POST, Jan. 23, 2001, at A16.

Joseph I. Lieberman, Editorial, The One Reasonable Solution, N.Y. TIMES, Nov. 29, 1998, § 4, at 9.

-  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  

Online Newspapers

Use same citation as print newspaper citing to online source directly (see rule 18.2.2)

  • Page numbers can be included but not necessary
  • Include time of posting, if available, in parentheses

Cisneros Probe: An Indictment Many Years in the Making, WASHINGTONPOST.COM, http://www.wasingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/special/cisneros/chronology.htm;

Paul Rubin, Begging Your Pardon, PHOENIX NEW TIMES, Mar. 15, 2001, available at http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/2001-03-15/news/begging-your-pardon/1

Internet Source Citations include:
  1. Name of author(s), if available
  2. Title of specific page of website (Underlined or Italics)
  3. Title of the main page of website
  4. Date & Time (if available) accessed
  5. URL

Refer to Rule 18.2 for further citation details.

Campaign Donors, Fundrace 2012, HUFFINGTON POST, http://fundrace.huffingtonpost.com

Michael Arrington, See Who's Reading Your LinkedIn Profile, TECHCRUNCH (May 10, 2007), http://techcrunch.com/2007/05/1 0/see-whos-reading-your-linkedin-profile/

Ken Armstrong & Justin Mayo, FrustratedAttorney: 'You Just Can't Help People,' SEATTLE TIMES, Apr. 6, 2004, http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/news/locall/unequaldefense/stories/three