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Citation of Cases

Chapter:
References
Author(s):

Cheryl Iverson

Citation of Cases

The citation of a case (ie, a court opinion) generally includes, in the following order:

  • The name of the case (including the v) in italics. To shorten the case name, use only the names of the first party on each side; omit “et al” and “the”; use only the last names of individuals

  • The volume number, abbreviated name, and series number (if any) of the reporter (bound volume of collected cases)

  • The page in the volume on which the case begins and, if applicable, the specific page or pages on which is discussed the point for which the case is being cited

  • In parentheses, the name of the court that rendered the opinion (unless the court is identified by the name of the reporter) and the year of the decision. If the opinion is published in more than 1 reporter, the citations to each reporter (known as parallel citations) are separated by commas. Note that v (for versus), 2d (for second), and 3d (for third) are standard usage in legal citations.

     

    • 1. Canterbury v Spence, 464 F2d 772, 775 (DC Cir 1972).

This case is published in volume 464 of the Federal Reporter, second series. The case begins on page 772, and the specific point for which it was cited is on page 775. The case was decided by the US Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, in 1972.

The proper reporter to cite depends on the court that wrote the opinion. Table T.2 in The Bluebook19 contains a complete list of all current and former state and federal jurisdictions for the United States. The 18th edition of The Bluebook also has many examples of non-US cases.

US Supreme Court.

Cite to US Reports (abbreviated as US). If the case is too recent to be published there, cite to Supreme Court Reporter (SCt), US Reports, Lawyer’s Edition (LEd), or US Law Week (USLW)—in that order. Do not include parallel citation. The format for these references includes the following, in the order specified (the punctuation is noted; where none is given after a bulleted item, none is used):

  • First party v Second party,

  • Reporter volume number

  • Official reporter abbreviation

  • First page of case, specific pages used

  • (Year of decision).

Some examples follow:

  • 2. School Board of Nassau City v Arline, 480 US 273, 287 (1987).

  • 3. Addington v Texas, 441 US 418, 426 (1979).

US Court of Appeals (Formerly Known as Circuit Courts of Appeals).

Cite to Federal Reporter, original or second series (F or F2d). These intermediate appellate-level courts hear appeals from US district courts, federal administrative agencies, and other federal trial-level courts. Circuits are referred to by number (1st Cir, 2d Cir, etc) except for the District of Columbia Circuit (DC Cir) and the Federal Circuit (Fed Cir), which hears appeals from the US Claims Court and from various customs and patent cases. Divisions are denoted by ED (Eastern Division), WD (Western Division), ND (Northern Division), and SD (Southern Division). Citations to the Federal Reporter must include the circuit designation in parentheses with the year of the decision. The format for these references includes the following, in the order specified (the punctuation is noted; where none is given after a bulleted item, none is used):

  • First party v second party,

  • Reporter volume number

  • Official reporter abbreviation

  • First page of case, specific page used

  • (Deciding circuit court and year of decision).

Some examples follow:

  • 4. Wilcox v United States, 387 F2d 60 (5th Cir 1967).

  • 5. Scoles v Mercy Health Corp, 887 F Supp 765 (ED Pa 1994).

  • 6. Bradley v University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Ctr, 3 F3d 922, 924 (5th Cir 1993).

  • 7. Doe v Washington University, 780 F Supp 628 (ED Mo 1991).

US District Court and Claims Courts.

Cite to Federal Supplement (F Supp). (There is only the original series so far.) These trial-level courts are not as prolific as the appellate courts; their function is to hear the original cases rather than review them. There are more than 100 of these courts, which are referred to by geographical designations that must be included in the citation (eg, the Northern District of Illinois [ND Ill], the Central District of California [CD Cal], but District of New Jersey [D NJ], as New Jersey has only 1 federal district).

  • 8. Sierra Club v Froehlke, 359 F Supp 1289 (SD Tex 1973).

State Courts.

Cite to the appropriate official (ie, state-sanctioned and state-financed) reporter (if any) and the appropriate regional reporter. Most states have separate official reporters for their highest and intermediate appellate courts (eg, Illinois Reports and Illinois Appellate Court Reports), but the regional reporters include cases from both levels. Official reporters are always listed first, although an increasing number of states are no longer publishing them. The regional reporters are the Atlantic Reporter (A or A2d), North Eastern Reporter (NE or NE2d), South Eastern Reporter (SE or SE2d), Southern Reporter (So or So2d), North Western Reporter (NW or NW2d), South Western Reporter (SW or SW2d), and Pacific Reporter (P or P2d). If only the regional reporter citation is given, the name of the court must appear in parentheses with the year of the decision. If the opinion is from the highest court of a state (usually but not always known as the supreme court), the abbreviated state name is sufficient (except for Ohio St). The full name of the court is abbreviated (eg, Ill App, NJ Super Ct App Div, NY App Div). A third, also unofficial, reporter is published for a few states; citations solely to these reporters must include the court name (eg, California Reporter [Cal Rptr], New York Supplement [NYS or NYS2d]). The format for these references includes the following, in the order specified (the punctuation is noted; where none is given after a bulleted item, none is used).

  • First party v second party,

  • Reporter volume number

  • Official state reporter abbreviation

  • First page of case, specific page used

  • Regional reporter and page number

  • (Year of decision).

Some examples follow:

  • 9. People v Carpenter, 28 Ill2d 116, 190 NE2d 738 (1963).

  • 10. Webb v Stone, 445 SW2d 842 (Ky 1969).

  • 11. Beringer Estate v Princeton Med Ctr, 592 A2d 1251 (NJ Super Ct Law Div 1991).

  • 12. Kerins v Hartley, 21 Cal Rptr 2d 621 (1993) (vacated and remanded for reconsideration), 28 Cal Rptr 2d 151 (1994).

  • 13. Benson v Justin, 1993 WL 515825 (Minn Ct App).

WL is Westlaw (www.westlaw.com), a legal citation database. A version of Westlaw’s database also exists for countries other than the United States (eg, www.westlaw.co.uk for the United Kingdom).

When a case has been reviewed or otherwise dealt with by a higher court, the subsequent history of the case should be given in the citation. If the year is the same for both opinions, include it only at the end of the citation. The phrases indicating the subsequent history are set off by commas, italicized, and abbreviated (eg, aff 'd [affirmed by the higher court], rev'd [reversed], vacated [made legally void, annulled], appeal dismissed, cert denied [application for a writ of certiorari, ie, a request that a court hear an appeal has been denied]).

  • 14. Glazer v Glazer, 374 F2d 390 (5th Cir), cert denied, 389 US 831 (1967).

This opinion was written by the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in 1967. In the same year, the US Supreme Court was asked to review the case in an application for a writ of certiorari but denied the request. This particular subsequent history is important because it indicates that the case has been taken to the highest court available and thus strengthens the case’s value as precedent for future legal decisions.

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