Bluebook Citation Guide
The Bluebook. Few books cause law students as much dread, pain, anger, and frustration as The Bluebook.
The Bluebook, formally titled The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation, is the style manual for citing to legal documents within the United States. It is now in its 20th edition, more than an inch thick, and consists of over 500 pages of guidance on legal citation. Needless to say, it is large, a bit unwieldy, and challenging at first. However, it is an essential book that every lawyer should know how to use.
Most of The Bluebook, however, is irrelevant for many people who create legal documents. You can ignore more than two-thirds of the book if all you need to do is to cite cases and statutes — which covers most of the first year of law school, and a lot of litigation. In fact, if you’re dealing only with cases, litigation documents and laws, you might be able to find the answer to your question using the cheat sheet on the inside back cover.
Basic Bluebook Citation Guide
The precise format of a case citation depends on a number of factors, including the jurisdiction, court, and type of case. You should review the rest of this section on citing cases (and the relevant rules in The Bluebook) before trying to format a case citation for the first time. However, the basic format of a case citation is as follows:
Note: In court documents (briefs, motions) and legal memoranda, a full case name is usually italicized or underlined. In academic legal writing (i.e., a law review article), full case names are generally not underlined or italicized.
Rule & Tables
Rule 10 (and Rule B10 in the Bluepages) governs how to cite cases. It contains extensive instructions on how to format case citations, and Rule 10 also provides guidance on citing briefs, court filings, and transcripts.
In addition to Rule 10, you may need to consult the following tables in order to format the case citation:
Table 1: A list of (1) reporters* and reporter abbreviations, (2) courts and court abbreviations, and (3) preferred sources to cite for federal courts and each state’s courts
Table 6: Abbreviations for terms used in case names (e.g., America[n] = Am.)
Table 7: Abbreviations for court names that you would use in the event a court abbreviation is not provided in Table 1
Table 10: Abbreviations for geographical terms (e.g., Virginia = Va.)
*What Is a Reporter?*
A reporter is a publication containing the opinions of a particular court or jurisdiction, organized chronologically by date of decision. The opinions of a given court or jurisdiction are often published in more than one reporter. As you’ll see below, for example, opinions of the U.S. Supreme Court are published in three reporters. If a case is published in a reporter, The Bluebook proscribes which reporter is the preferred one to cite (Table 1).
Case Citation (Rule 10)
Party Name v. Party Name, Volume Reporter Page (Court Year) (parenthetical).
United States v. Legault, 323 F. Supp. 2d 217 (D. Mass. 2004) (Jonas, J., dissenting) (noting historical examples).
Court Documents: Only underline party names (excluding the comma). Remember that every citation sentence must end with a period.
Law Reviews: Do not underline party names, but italicize procedural phrases. ================================================================
Party Names – Rule 10.2
Abbreviate and/or omit party names for easy but unambiguous identification.
The main party name rules are 10.2, 10.2.1 & 10.2.2. Rule 10.2 requires case names in textual and citation sentences to conform with 10.2.1, but citation sentences should also conform to Rule 10.2.2.
Some (but not all – read Rule 10.2 et seq) rules of thumb to keep in mind –
(1) Include only the first appellation of any party name [rule 10.2.1(a)] and
Remove any given names [rule 10.2.1(g)]
Edward G. Fielding becomes Fielding
Remove any organizational designations apart from the first [Rule 10.2.1(h)]
Barr Corp., Inc. becomes Barr Corp.
Remove words indicating muliple parties or legal titles [rule 10.2.1(a) & 10.2.1(e)]
Dagobert et al. v. Hale, Administrator becomes Dagobert v. Hale
Remove “State of”, “Commonwealth of” and “People of” and leave the state name unless citing opinions in which the party is the state where the court is located, then use “State”, “Commonwealth” or “People” only [rule 10.2.1(f)]
State of Illinois v. Angus Moore, 23 Ill. 458 (1990) becomes State v. Moore, 23 Ill. 458 (1990)
John Stern v. State of Florida, 23 U.S. 234 (1990) becomes Stern v. Florida, 23 U.S. 234 (1990)
Note that in the first example the case is in the Illinois Supreme Court, thus State replaces Illinois. In the second example the case is in the U.S. Supreme Court, thus the name of the state, here Florida, is the name of the party.
Remove all geographical designations that follow a comma [rule 10.2.1(f)].
City of Arlington, Texas becomes City of Arlington
Citation sentences must additionally abbreviate the words in Rule 10.2.2 and Table 6.
Use T10 to abbreviate states, countries, and other geographical units, unless the geographical unit is the entire name of the party (e.g., United States)
Model for consecutively paginated articles [rule 16.3]
Author(s), Title, Periodical Name (year) (parenthetical).
Model for non-consecutively paginated articles [rules 16.4]
Author(s), Title, Periodical Name, Date of Issue, at Page.
Theodore Meron, Reflections on the Prosecution of War Crimes by International Tribunals, 100 Am. J. Int’l L. 551 (2006) (discussing the Nuremberg trials).
Rachel Williams, Council Found Liable for Birth Defects, Med. L. Rev., Wed. 29, 2009, at 2.
Court Documents: Underline the article title.
Law Reviews: Italicize titles and small caps for the periodical title.
Author – Rule 15.1 & Rule 16.1
Always cite an author’s full name when first citing the work (first name then last name). Include any “Jr.” or “III,” etc. [rule 15.1]. When there are two authors, list them as they appear on the work. If there are more than two authors [rule 15.1(a)], either use the first author’s name followed by et al., or alternatively list them all. These rules apply to institutional authors as well. The same rules apply for editors/translators, except that the name goes in the first parenthetical separated by a comma from other information [rule 15.2].
Henry Anjou & Louis Capet, Dissolving Feudal Ties, 24 J. Medieval L. 34 (2002).
Plantagenet et al., Empire Building in the Medieval Age, 45 J. Medieval L. 44 (2002).
Article Title – Rule 16.2 & Rule 8
Do not abbreviate or omit words in an article title (unlike party names in a case citation). Capitalize words in the title according to Rule 8(a). This rule, in essence, requires the capitalization of all words in a title, including any that begin a title, or immediately follow a colon. But do not capitalize articles, conjunctions and prepositions when they are four or less letters unless, as above, they begin the title or immediately follow a colon.
The Lockerbie “Extradition by Analogy” Agreement: “Exceptional Measure” or Template for Transnational Criminal Justice?=======================================================================
Periodical Name – Rule 16 & Table 13
Always use the abbreviations listed in Table 13 for the law journal or review title. This abbreviation list takes precedence over any abbreviations used by law journals or reviews themselves. If the title is not found in Table 13, then the Bluebook suggests that you structure the abbreviation by employing words already abbreviated in the list. If there are any geographic words, use Table 10.
Case Western Reserve Law Review becomes Case W. Res. L. Rev.
Year – Rule 16
As found in the article [consecutive] or date of issue [non-consecutive].
Follow same rules as used for cases.
Statutory Citation (Rule 12)
(wide variations occur between jurisdictions)
Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 183, § 49 (2006) or 44 U.S.C. § 1234 (2000).
Court Documents: Nothing is underlined.
Law Reviews: Use small caps for the statutory abbreviation.
Statutes – Rule 12
If possible, cite to the official code and/or its supplement. Else, cite to an unofficial code (usually the annotated version), then Lexis or Westlaw, then looseleaf, internet or newspaper, in that order [rule 12.2.1].
Keep the following hints in mind;
(1) Often an act from a legislature is inserted into the official code at myriad places, making it impossible to view it as a whole. When this occurs, you can cite to the public law number, sessiona law or statutes at large [rule 10.2.2(a) & 12.4].
(2) The official federal code is the United States Code (U.S.C.). Cite therein if available [see rule 12.3 & table 1]. This includes U.S.C. supplements [see rules 3.1(c), 12.2.1(a) & 12.3.1(e)].
If the statute has not yet been published in the U.S.C. and its supplements, then you can cite to the United States Code Annotated (U.S.C.A.) or the United States Code Service (U.S.C.S.).
The model for a federal statute is: Title Code § Section (year).
28 U.S.C. § 1350 (2006)
(3) If you are citing to a specific subdivision or subdivisions of a code section, indicate all the subections. If you are citing to muliple sections, use §§. Consult rule 3.3 on how to use section and paragraph symbols.
28 U.S.C. §§ 1350(a)(2)-(c)(2) (2006)
(4) Official titles: Only include an official title when the statute is commonly cited that way, or if the information would aid in the statute’s easy identification within a textual setting [rule 12.3.1(a)]. Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA), 28 U.S.C. § 1350 (2006).
(5) Note that the Internal Revenue Code, because it is so distinct and commonly cited, has its own special citation form under Rule 12.9.1. Thus instead of 26 U.S.C. § 245 (2006), use I.R.C. § 245 (2006). See also Tax Material.
(6) Each state has its own statutory citation methodology. You should consult Table 1 and look up the jurisdiction in question. Upon finding the appropriate jurisdiction, consult the ‘statutory compilations’ section. Most will provide the proper citation for both official and unofficial codes, and which to use first . Some larger jurisdictions, like Texas, employ subject-matter codes, e.g. Tex. Agric. Code Ann. § 190 (Vernon 2006).
Note, for certain states you must indicate the publisher in the parenthetical.
Citing Books and Treatises
Volume, Author(s), Title Pinpoint Cite (edition year).
Roy M. Mersky & Donald J. Dunn, Fundamentals of Legal Research 120 (8th ed. 2002).
Court Documents: Underline the book title.
Law Reviews: Use large and small capitals for the book title.
Volume – Rule 15.3
In large mutli-volume treatises, you will often have to indicate which volume you are using. Insert the volume number at the start of the cite or a section after the title.
6 Austin W. Scott, The Law of Trusts (4th ed. 1990).
Austin W. Scott, The Law of Trusts § 6.2 (4th ed. 1990).
Author – Rule 15.1
(1) Cite the author’s full name as given in the publication, which includes any middle initials or other designations like Jr. or III. [rule 15.1]. For two authors, use an ampersand with both full names [rule 15.1(a)]. If there are more than two authors you can either cite them all or cite the first followed by et al. [rule 15.1(b)].
Lynn M. LoPucki et al., Commercial Transactions: A Systems Approach (2d ed. 2003).
(2) Insert any editor(s) or translator(s) into the parenthetical [rule 15.2] followed by either ed. or trans. – follow the usual rules for one, two or more authors.
Jens Beckert, Inherited Wealth (Thomas Dunlap trans., 2008).
Title – Rule 15.3 & Rule 8(a)
Indicate the full title as it appears on the title page. Do not abbreviate or omit words in the title (unlike party names in a case citation). Capitalize words in the title according to Rule 8(a). This rule, in essence, requires the capitalization of all words in a title, including any that begin a title, or immediately follow a colon. But, do not capitalize articles, conjunctions and prepositions when they are four or less letters unless, as above, they begin the title or immediately follow a colon.
The Lockerbie “Extradition by Analogy” Agreement: “Exceptional Measure” or Template for Transnational Criminal Justice?
Edition – Rule 15.4
(1) Cite the edition that you are citing/relying upon – usually the latest. Do not indicate a first edition, only subsequent editions. Note that it is 2d, 3d, 4th, 5th, etc. Always make sure not to superscript.
(2) If there are multiple editions by different publishers, then insert the publisher along with the edition and year.
Year – Rule 15.4
Indicate the year of publication.
Commonly Used Massachusetts Secondary Sources – Rule 15.8
(1) Massachusetts Practice (a multi-set treatise on Massachusetts law)
Insert, (1) the volume number, (2) the author(s) of the specific volume, (3) title of the specific volume, (4) pinpoint cite if applicable, and (5) edition/year (and supplement if necessary). Do not insert Massachusetts Practice as the title.
26 Herbert Lemelman, Uniform Commerical Code Forms Annotated (2005).
2 Charles Kindregan et al., Family Law and Practice: With Forms (2002).
(2) Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) (another treatise set)
This follows the same template as Massachusetts Practice.
Dana Casher, Collecting Civil Judgments (5th ed. 2013).
John O. Mirick, Discovery and Trial Preparation, in Chapter 93A Rights and Remedies (Hon. Margot Botsford ed., 2005).