Basic Legal Citation

Case Law: What is it?

Case Law is law based on judicial decision and precedent. A typical research paper will cite the legal decision, or outcome, of the court case.

How to cite cases

The judicial opinion of a case is published in a reporter. The case and reporter information can also be found in the Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis databases. Undergraduates generally use Lexis-Nexis. Law students may go to the Law Library for assistance with Westlaw. 

Case citation

Parts of a citation include:

  • Names of the parties separated by a "v." for "versus"
  • Case ID -- either an official one provided by the court and included in the decision OR one constructed from the reporter address. A constructed ID contains these parts:
    • reporter volume
    • reporter name
    • first page of case in the reporter
  • Clarifications and date. These are placed in parenthesis in Bluebook. Clarifications may not be needed for simplified forms of legal citation used in APA and MLA, but these are typical clarifications:
    • the court name if not already identifiable
    • the number of the circuit court information
    • a case citation within a case citation

examples from the Boston College Law Library Research Guides

Statutes: What they are

Statutes are laws created by legislation. Cite the codified version of the law. When a law is codified, it is organized to a topic, and given a location in a reporter. Statute reporters are called codes. See the Advanced Legal Citation Guide for information about regulations and rules created by agencies.

How to cite statutes

Federal codes are found in:

  • US Code -- abbreviated U. S. C
  • US Code Annotated -- abbreviated U. S. C. A.
  • State -- GA Code --

Code Screen Shot

Citations have these parts:

  • Title -- if title sections are used
  • Name of code
  • Section Symbol(s) -- "§" is used for the word "section." When the sign is doubled, "§§", it means that information for the statute is found in more than one section of the code.
  • Division identifier -- This is your section number, or occasionally a name or word in some codes.
  • Currency -- If there is a volume number, date, or supplement number of the code that is used to show the currency of your source, it should be included. In Bluebook, this goes in parentheses (). Check the tab for modifying to APA and MLA.

examples from the Boston College Law Library Research Guides

Last Update: 13 Jul 16:58 | Tagged with: law legal citation Bluebook