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Legal References

APA and Chicago (Author-Date) follow The Bluebook system for legal citations.

Learn more:

Legal Case Citation Elements

A case or court reference list citation includes:

  • Title or name of the case.
    • Usually listed as one party versus another, omit the first names and use only the first party/name (e.g. Plessy v. Ferguson). 
    • Use "v." between parties' names, for example, Brown v. Board of Education
    • use italics for the title only for the in-text citation (e.g. Brown v. Board of Education, 1954).
  • Source of the case or "citation" of the case (cases are printed in volumes called a "Reporter" or "Case Reporter").
  • Jurisdiction of the court (Court and Date); in parentheses.
    • Court level and location (District Court, Circuit Court, or State Court; abbreviated; see the examples below and the U.S. Court abbreviations list). 
    • The year of the decision
    • omit the name of the Supreme Court
  • URL
    • Where you found the case online.
    • This is optional but helps your reader retrieve the information. 

A case or court in-text citation includes:

  • In-text paraphrase: (Name v. Name, Year).
  • In-text quote: (Name v. Name, Year, para. 3). OR (Name v. Name, Year, p. 3). OR (Name v. Name, Year, section name).

Example:

  • Reference list citation: Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).
  • In-text citation: (Brown v. Board of Education, 1954).

The decision for Brown v. Board of Education appears in Volume 347 of the United States Reports (abbreviated U.S.) on page 483, and it was decided in 1954. Note. The name is in italics in the "short form" of the citation, the in-text citation.

United States Supreme Court

Name v. Name, Volume# U.S. Page# (Year). URL

 

The U.S. Supreme Court decisions are published in the United States Reports (abbreviated U.S.) but as it only contains Supreme Court decisions, the name can be inferred so omit the name of the reporter. Cite the Supreme Court Reporter for cases not yet published in the United States Reports.

  • Include both the volume number of the United States Reports and the page number if available (at the time of this writing, page numbers are only available for decisions published before 2015). Use three underscores instead of a page number in the reference entry. 
  • To find case citations for U.S. Supreme Court decisions go to Oyez.org

Example with page numbers:

Burnwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, 573 U.S. 682 (2014). https://www.oyez.org/cases/2013/13-354

  • In-text citation: (Burnell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, 2014).

Example no page numbers:

Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, 584 U.S. ___ (2018). https://www.oyez.org/cases/2017/16-111

  • In-text paraphrase: (Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, 2018). 

 

U.S. District Court

 

Name v. Name, Volume# F. Supp. Page# (Court Year). URL

 

Decisions from the U.S. District Court are published in the Federal Supplements (abbreviated as F. Supp.).

Example:

Panetti v. Drake, 401 F. Supp. 2d 702 (W.D. Tex. 2004). https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/FSupp2/401/702/2500384/

  • In-text citation: (Panetti v. Drake, 2004)

 

U.S. Circuit Court

 

Name v. Name, Volume# F. [or F.2d, F.3d] Page# (Court Year). URL

 

Decisions from the U.S. Circuit Court are published in the Federal Reporter (abbreviated F. or F.2d or F.ed).

Example:

McBride v. Maass, 28 F.3d 107 (9th Cir. 1994). https://openjurist.org/28/f3d/107/mcbride-v-maass

  • In-text citation: (McBride v. Maass, 1994).

 

State court decisions

 

Name v. Name, Volume# StateReporter Page# (Court Year). URL

 

State court decisions are published in State Legal Case Reporters.

Example:

Bridges v. State, 863 So. 2d 366 (Fla. Dist Ct. App. 2003). https://casetext.com/case/bridges-v-state-37

  • In-text citation: (Bridges v. State, 2003).

 

Statutes

Name of Act, Title Source § Section Number (Year). URL

Example of Federal Statute

Congressional Declaration of Purpose, 42 U.S.C. § 4321 (Current through Public Law 118-21, approved November 13, 2023.). https://advance.lexis.com/api/document?collection=statutes-legislation&id=urn:contentItem:8SHT-0722-D6RV-H24F-00000-00&context=1516831

  • In-text paraphrase: (Congressional Declaration of Purpose, 2023).
  • In-text quote: (Congressional Declaration of Purpose, 2023, para. 1).

Example of State Statute

Florida Mental Health Act, Fla. Stat. § 394 (1971 & rev. 2009). http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0300-0399/0394/0394PARTIContentsIndex.html

  • In-text paraphrase: (Florida Mental Health Act, 1971/2009).
  • In-text quote: (Florida Mental Health Act, 1971/2009, Guardian Advocate section, para. 2d).

 

Declaration of Independence

 

Cite the Declaration of Independence in your reference list and in the body of your paper.

 

Reference list format:

The Declaration of Independence (U.S. 1776). https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration-transcript

  • In-text paraphrase: (The Declaration of Independence, 1776).
  • In-text quote: (The Declaration of Independence, 1776, para, 2).

 

United States Constitution

Citing the full Constitution.

Full Federal and State Constitutions do not need to be included in your reference list.

 

Example sentences:

  • The U.S. Constitution has 26 amendments. 
  • The Massachusetts Constitution was ratified in 1780.

 

Citing amendments and articles of the Constitution.

Specific amendments and articles of a Constitution require BOTH reference list and in-text citations. The reference list and in-text citaitons are formatted the same way. The U.S. Constitution is always abbreviated as U.S. Const.


Amendments:

U.S. Const. amend. xxx.

 

Example:

U.S. Const. amend. IV. 

  • In-text citation: (U.S. Const. amend. IV). OR Amendment IV of the U.S. Constitution ...
  • In-text example:
    • The U.S. Constitution protects people from unreasonable searches by the government (U.S. Const. amend. IV).
    • Amendment IV of the U.S. Constitution protects people from unreasonable searches by the government.

Articles:

U.S. Const. art. xxx, § x.

 

Example:

U.S. Cont. art. IV, § 3.

  • In-text citation: (U.S. Cont. art. IV, § 3). OR Article IV, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution ...
  • In-text examples:
    • The U.S. Constitution allows Congress to admit new states into the union (U.S. Cont. art. IV, § 3).
    • According to Article IV, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, Congress is allowed to admit new states into the union.

 

UN Charter, Treaties, & International Conventions

Charter of the United Nations

U.N. Charter art. xx, para. xx

 

Example:

U.N. Charter art. 1, para. 3.

  • In-text citation: (U.N. Charter art. 1, para. 3). OR Article 1, paragraph 3, of the United Nations Charter ...
  • In-text examples:
    • One central purpose of the United Nations is to "achieve international co-operation in solving international problems" (U.N. Charter art. 1, para. 3).
    • According to Article 1, paragraph 3, a central purpose of the United Nations is to "achieve international co-operation in solving international problems."