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Bluebook Quick Reference: Abbreviations and How-tos

Cases - How to Cite

Bluebook Rule 10 covers how cases should be cited in legal documents. Table T.1 includes the official names and legal citation abbreviations for federal and state reporters, and federal and state statutory compilations.

If you are writing a brief or memo, look at the Blue Pages, Rule B10 (Or apply the citation rules of the jurisdiction).  The difference between brief format and law review note format is mostly the typeface. For brief format, use italics or underlining for a case name.  For law review footnote format, the case name is in regular typeface.  In the text of a law review article, italicize the name of a case.


Jurisdiction Tables and Abbreviations: Table T.1
One of the keys to citing cases 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.

The following chart summarizes Table T.1, including where to find reporter and reporter abbreviation information for all federal and state courts.

CITATION TYPE

INFORMATION INCLUDED

LOCATION

Federal Courts

Citation conventions for cases from general federal litigation courts, including U.S. Supreme Court, Courts of Appeal and District Courts are listed, as well as the rest of federal courts (such as specialized federal courts, including the U.S. Bankruptcy Court and the U.S. Tax Court).

New law students should first become familiar with the U.S. Supreme Court (p. 233), Circuit Courts of Appeal (p. 234) and District Courts (p. 235).

T. 1.1, pp. 233-236

See this guide, Federal Court Abbreviations 

 

State Courts and Laws

Citation conventions for cases from all levels of courts for all U.S. states and territories.

T. 1.3, pp. 248-302 (U.S. States)

See this Guide: State Court Abbreviations
 

T. 1.4,p. 303 -306 (Other U.S. Jurisdictions)

 

Since you will use the information in Table T.1 often throughout your legal career, you should take the time to become familiar with its content. While most of the information in Table T.1 is straightforward, there are a couple of tips that will allow you to use the table more effectively:

  1. Where a jurisdiction's cases are published in more than one reporter, the official reporter is always listed first and unofficial reporters are listed in order of citation preference. For example, Table T.1 (p. 233) lists four reporters that publish Supreme Court cases: United States Reports, Supreme Court Reporter, Lawyer's Edition and United States Law Week. United States Reports is the official Supreme Court reporter because it is listed first among the four choices; the three remaining reporters are considered unofficial reporters. (You would cite to the unofficial reporters only if the official reporter has not published the opinion.) Further, unofficial reporters are listed in order of preference: in this example, you would cite to the Supreme Court Reporter before you cited to the Lawyer's Edition (assuming, again, that there is no citation in United States Reports).
  1. The Bluebook lists a regional reporter as each state's official reporter. These opinions are often issued from a state's highest court. A state's high court opinions are also published in the state's official reporter if the state publishes an official reporter. These concepts are explained in detail in the following section, "State Cases."


STATE CASES

State cases can be cited in two ways: using a regional reporter, and using a state reporter.

Citing a State Case in a Regional Reporter

Most of the time, you will cite a state case using a regional reporter citation. All seven regional reporters are published by the West Group.

The following table shows how the regional reporters and states correspond to each other.

Regional Reporter

State Coverage

Atlantic

Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont

North Eastern

Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio

North Western

Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin

Pacific

Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming

South Eastern

Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia

South Western

Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Texas, Tennessee

Southern

Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi

 

To cite to a case in a regional reporter, list the following six elements in order:

  1. Name of the case (italicized or underlined - if writing a brief or memo, per Rule B2);
  2. Volume of the reporter;
  3. Reporter abbreviation;
  4. First page where the case can be found in the reporter and pinpoint page if required;
  5. Abbreviation for the state court where the case was decided (within parentheses); and
  6. Year the case was decided (within parentheses).

Consider, for example, the following citation:

Watkins v. Alvey, 549 N.E.2d 74 (Ind. Ct. App. 1990).

The elements are as follows:

Element

Result

Name of the case

Watkins v. Alvey,

Volume of the Reporter

549

Reporter abbreviation

N.E.2d [second series of the North Eastern Reporter]

First page of case

No pinpoint required since you are only citing the case in general

74

State court abbreviation

(Ind. Ct. App.. [abbreviation corresponds to the Indiana Court of Appeals]

Year of decision

1990)

 

Note: According to the Bluepages (B1; p. 11) , case names can be italicized or underlined. Italics is preferred.

Citing a State Case in a State Reporter 

If you are submitting legal documents to a state court, you may have to cite cases using state court reporters in addition to regional reporters.  See Rules on Parallel Citations, Rule B10.1.3 at p. 14. See also Rule 10.3.1.  As a result, the full state court citation for the following case would not be

Alderson v. Fatlan, 898 N.E.2d 595 (Ill. 2008)

but rather

Alderson v. Fatlan,231 Ill.2d 311, 898 N.E.2d 595 (2008)

In the second citation example, the Alderson case lists the official Illinois Supreme Court reporter (abbreviated "Ill.2d.") as the first citation. (The abbreviated name of the state court's official reporter is always the same as the abbreviated name of the state's highest court. See "Jurisdiction Tables and Abbreviations," above.) 2d is the series number. The second half of the second citation example lists the regional reporter citation as a parallel citation. Note that if the state or court is clear from the official reporter title, omit it from the date parenthetical.  R. 10.1.3. Consult your state court's local rules to find out whether the parallel citation is necessary. Ohio requires parallel citation. see Supreme Court of Ohio Writing Manual. It is recommended that the format set out by the Supreme Court of Ohio Writing Manual be used when submitting briefs or other documents to Ohio State Courts.

Many states no longer publish an official reporter. Check Table T1 for your jurisdiction to see if an official reporter is still published.  For Ohio, Ohio Supreme Court cases are still published in the print reporter, Ohio State Reports (Ohio St., Ohio St.2d, Ohio St.3d).  As of July 1, 2012, appellate cases are no longer published in the print reporter Ohio Appellate Reports.  The Supreme Court website is the Ohio Official Reports for opinions of the courts of appeals and the Court of Claims as of July 1, 2012. See Ohio Rules for  Reporting Opinions 3.2

 


FEDERAL CASES

U.S. Supreme Court: Official Citation

When citing Supreme Court cases, you must cite to the official Supreme Court reporter, United States Reports. To cite to a case in the United States Reports, list the following five elements in order:

  1. Name of the case (italicized or underlined - assuming you are writing a brief or memo);
  2. Volume of the United States Reports;
  3. Reporter abbreviation ("U.S.");
  4. First page where the case can be found in the reporter and pinpoint page if required;
  5. Year the case was decided (within parentheses).

Consider, for example, the following citation:

New York Times Co. v. Tasini, 533 U.S. 483 (2001)

The elements are as follows:

Element

Result

Name of the case

New York Times Co. v. Tasini,

Volume of the Reporter

533

Reporter abbreviation

U.S.

First page of case

No pinpoint required since you are only citing the case in general

483

Year of decision

(2001)


U.S. Supreme Court: Unofficial Citations

United States Reports is an official publication of the United States Government, and is printed by the Government Printing Office. Due to the time lag between the Court releasing a decision and the Printing Office's publication of that decision, however, it is possible that you may have to cite a Supreme Court case that does not yet have an official United States Reports cite.

In these instances, you would cite the opinion using the unofficial Supreme Court Reporter citation as a first option, or the unofficial United States Supreme Court Reports — Lawyer's Edition as a second option. The volume and page numbers for each unofficial reporter will be different than those found in the official reporter.

For example, the recent case Windsor v. United States (the DOMA case) is not available in the U.S. Reports yet (as of 2/13/2017). So it must be cited from the Supreme Court Reporter.

Thus, the unofficial Supreme Court Reporter cite for the Windsor case is 133 S.Ct. 2884,

Windsor v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2884 (2013).

The elements of the Supreme Court Reporter cite are as follows:

Element

Result

Name of the case

Windsor v. United States

Volume of the Reporter

133

Reporter abbreviation

S.Ct.

First page of case

No pinpoint required since you are only citing the case in general

2884

Year of decision

(2013)


U.S. Court of Appeals

Unlike the Supreme Court, decisions from the nation's federal courts of appeal are not compiled in an official reporter; there is none. Instead, all federal courts of appeals decisions are cited in West's Federal Reporter. This reporter set currently has three series, F., F.2d, and F.3d. Decisions are arranged in chronological order.

To cite to a case in the Federal Reporter, list the following six elements in order:

  1. Name of the case (italicized or underlined);
  2. Volume of the Federal Reporter;
  3. Reporter abbreviation ("F.", "F.2d" or "F.3d");
  4. First page where the case can be found in the reporter and pinpoint page if required;
  5. The abbreviation for the circuit that issued the decision (within parenthesis); (pg.97)
  6. Year the case was decided (within parenthesis following court abbreviation).

Consider, for example, the following citation:

Universal City Studios, Inc. v. Corley, 273 F.3d 429 (2d Cir. 2001)

The elements are as follows:

Element

Result

Name of the case

Universal City Studios, Inc. v. Corley,

Volume of the Reporter

273

Reporter abbreviation

F.3d [third series of the Federal Reporter]

First page of case

No pinpoint required since you are only citing the case in general

429

Circuit abbreviation

(2d Cir.

Year of decision

2001)


U.S. District Court

Like the federal courts of appeals, decisions from the nation's district courts are not compiled in an official reporter; there is none. Instead, all district court decisions are cited in West's Federal Supplement. This reporter set currently has two series, F. Supp. and F. Supp. 2d.

To cite to a case in the Federal Supplement, list the following six elements in order:

  1. Name of the case (italicized or underlined);
  2. Volume of the Federal Supplement;
  3. Reporter abbreviation ("F. Supp." or "F. Supp. 2d");
  4. First page where the case can be found in the reporter and pinpoint page if required;
  5. The abbreviation for the district court that issued the decision (within parenthesis) (p. 98);
  6. Year the case was decided (within parenthesis following court abbreviation).

Consider, for example, the following citation:

City of Millville v. Rock, 683 F. Supp. 2d 319 (D.N.J. 2010)

The elements are as follows:

Element

Result

Name of the case

City of Millville v. Rock,

Volume of the Reporter

683

Reporter abbreviation

F. Supp. 2d [second series of the Federal Supplement]

First page of case

No pinpoint required since you are only citing the case in general

319

District abbreviation

(D.N.J.

Year of decision

2010)

 

Specialized Federal Courts

Specialized federal courts, such as the U.S. Bankruptcy Court or the U.S. Tax Court, have slightly different citation rules. Check the Table T.1 for guidance on how to cite to materials from such courts.


UNPUBLISHED CASES

Only a small percentage of cases are published or reported, i.e., found in printed reporters. Many more cases are available from Westlaw Edge, Lexis or other databases. When citing an unpublished case, refer to rule 10.8.1 (or B10.1.4)

To cite to an unpublished case, list the following elements in this order:

  1. Name of the case (italicized or underlined);
  2. Docket number;
  3. Database identifier;
  4. The abbreviation for the court that issued the decision (within open parenthesis);
  5. The full date of decision (within closed parenthesis).

Consider, for example, the following citation:

United States v. Bennett, No. 05-CR-6050 CJS, 2005 WL 2709572 (W.D.N.Y. Oct. 21, 2005).

The elements are as follows:

Element

Result

Name of the case

United States v. Bennett,

Docket number

No. 05-CR-6050 CJS,

Database identifier

2005 WL 2709572

District abbreviation

(W.D.N.Y.

Full date of decision

Oct. 21, 2005)