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Bluebook Quick Reference: Abbreviations and How-tos

Statutes - How to Cite

Bluebook Rule 12 covers how statutes should be cited in legal documents. Table T.1 includes the official names and legal citation abbreviations for  federal and state statutory compilations. For further information on federal statutes, please click here. For further information on state statutes, please click here.

Consult the Blue Pages, Rule B12, if you are writing a brief or memo.

Jurisdiction Tables and Abbreviations: Table T.1

One of the keys to citing statutes properly is knowing where to find the proper legal citation abbreviations. in the Bluebook, all abbreviations are listed in the tables, which begin on page 233. Learn to check the Table T.1 whenever you are citing primary authority. This table provides the reporter names and abbreviations, statutory compilation names and abbreviations, and citation conventions for all federal and state courts.

State statutory compilations can be found within Table T.1.3 pp. 248-302. For other U.S. Jurisdictions, see Table T 1.4, pp. 303-306.

Federal Statutes

Official Code Sections

The United States Code is the official code for federal statutes. It is updated annually and a new print edition is published every six years. It can also be found on the web. For information on where to find these codes online, please click here. If the federal statute that you are citing is still in force, Bluebook Rule 12.2.1 states that you should cite to the official code or its supplement whenever possible.

There are generally four elements in a citation to a statute in the United States Code:

  1. The title number
  2. The abbreviation of the code used (here, U.S.C.)
  3. The section symbol (§) followed by a space and the section number containing the statute
  4. The year of the code.*

* - Bluebook Rule 12.3.2 states that when you are citing a bound volume of the current official or unofficial code, you should provide the year that appears on the spine of the volume, the year that appears on the title page, or the latest copyright year. For other formats, please see Rule 12.3.2.

For example, if you were writing about civil rights in public health and welfare law and wanted to reference a statute discussing civil actions for deprivation of rights, the proper citation would be: 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2012).

In some instances you may need to give the name of the statute within the citation. Those instances are usually limited to if the statute is commonly cited that way or if the information would otherwise aid in identification. For additional information, please see Bluebook Rule 12.3.1.

For example, if you wanted to reference a statute regarding the cooperation of agencies in the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969., the proper citation would be: National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 § 102, 42 U.S.C. § 4332 (2012).

 

Unofficial Code Sections

The United States Code Annotated and the United States Code Service are two of the unofficial federal codes. The United States Code Annotated is published by West and the United States Code Service is published by LexisNexis. The unofficial code citations are essentially the same as the official code citations, but adds the name of the publisher, editor, or compiler before the year. Therefore, the proper citation format is:

  1. The title number
  2. The abbreviation of the code used (here, U.S.C.A. or U.S.C.S.)
  3. The section symbol (§) followed by a space and the section number containing the statute
  4. The name of the publisher (West or LexisNexis)
  5. The year of the code.

For example, if you wanted to cite to a statute regarding the capital structure of federal home loan banks, the proper citations would be:

12 U.S.C.A. § 1426 (West 2010).

12 U.S.C.A. § 1426 (LexisNexis 2010).

Please note that the citations automatically generated by Lexis and Westlaw Edge do not entirely follow the Bluebook format.

 

Electronic Media and Online Sources

When using commercial electronic databases such as Lexis or Westlaw Edge, it is important that you include the currency of the database in the parenthetical. For more information on how to cite electronic media and online sources, please see Bluebook Rule 12.5. For more information on whether you are looking at the official and authentic U.S. Code on the internet, please click here.

To find the currency of Lexis, the information for the statute can be found underneath the "Copy Citation" box but before the text of the citation itself. To find the currency of Westlaw Edge, the information for the statute can be found at the bottom of the page underneath the statute, Notes of Decisions, and Footnotes.

If you had found the previous statute online on Lexis or Westlaw Edge, the proper citation would therefore be:

12 U.S.C.A. § 1426 (West, Westlaw Edge through P.L. 115-132).

12 U.S.C.S. § 1426 (LexisNexis, Lexis Advance through PL 115-140, approved 3/20/18).

Supplements and Pocket Parts

Each of the three codes mentioned herein are periodically updated with supplements or pocket parts (that is, small packets that are kept in the back of the applicable volume). If a statute has been amended or a new statute has been enacted and it appears in either a supplement or a pocket part, Bluebook Rule 12.3.1(e) says that you must cite it accordingly. To find the date for the supplement or the pocket part, look on the spine of the volume or the front page of the pocket part.

If the current version only appears in the supplement, then the correct citation would be: 18 U.S.C. § 510(b) (Supp. I 1983). However, if parts of the statute's current version appears in both the main volume and supplement, then you must cite to both of these versions. Therefore, the correct citation would be: 12 U.S.C. § 1455 (1982 & Supp. I 1983).

For more information on how to cite supplements, please see Bluebook Rule 3.1(c).

State Statutes

Similar to federal codes, state statutes may be published in both an official code and an unofficial code. Bluebook Rule 12.2.1 requires that you cite to the official code of each state if possible.

A list of any available codes for each state is included in Table T1.3. Also included is the official/preferred code for that state, as well as the proper abbreviations for each code. It is important to refer to the Bluebook for each state, as the format varies by state. For example, Connecticut's official code is the General Statutes of Connecticut, and the unofficial code is Connecticut General Statutes Annotated.

State statutes are generally cited similarly to federal statutes, but different states have different requirements for their citations. It is therefore best practice to consult the Bluebook when citing a statute from a new state.

State statutes are also periodically updated via pocket parts and supplements. Bluebook Rule 12.3.1(e) governs the way to cite to supplements and pocket parts for both federal and state statutes. For more information on how to cite supplements, please see Bluebook Rule 3.1(c).

Example: Ohio

Ohio does not have an official code - the session laws are official.  So, just cite to either the Lexis or Westlaw Edge unofficial code:

  • Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2913.02 (LEXIS through file 59 (HB 1)).
  • Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2913.02 (West, Westlaw Edge through file 59 of the 132nd General Assembly (2017-2018)).

(For law review footnotes, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. should be in small caps.)

But if you are using the Ohio Supreme Court format, (for briefs submitted to an Ohio court) the citation is: R.C. 2913.02.