Citation Practices and The Bluebook


  • Quoting
  • Naming
  • Adducing as proof
  • Summoning (calling attention to)


  • Legal power or right
  • Weight of testimony

Root: author — v. to create, bring into being; n. original writer, creator

When do legally trained readers expect citations to authority?

  • To support a legal assertion
  • To identify an authority that is described in specific terms (e.g., a judicial opinion, by its holding, reasoning, or facts)
  • To identify the source of a direct quotation
  • To credit the source of an idea

Sources of legal authority: primary and secondary

Sources of primary authority

  • Constitution
  • Statutes
  • Treaties
  • Judicial decisions
  • Administrative regulations
  • Administrative agency decisions

Sources of secondary authority

  • Restatements
  • Treatises
  • Law reviews
  • American Law Reports annotations
  • Encyclopedias
  • Dictionaries

Hierarchies among authorities I (federal and state)


Hierarchies among authorities II (federal and state)

  • Constitutions
  • Legislation (statutes)
  • Administrative agency regulations are binding upon
  • Courts within same jurisdiction

Hierarchies among authorities III (federal v. state)

  • Federal statute supersedes state statute on the same subject in the event of a conflict
  • U.S. Supreme Court decision controls over state court rulings on questions of federal law

Hierarchies among authorities IV(federal and state)

Authoritativeness of rulings from courts within a single jurisdiction on a specific issue in rank order:

  • Court of last resort
  • Intermediate appellate court
  • Trial court

Hierarchies among authorities V(federal and state)

Mandatory (binding) authority:

  • Controls within a jurisdiction
  • Limited to primary authority

Persuasive (non-binding) authority:

  • Not controlling within a jurisdiction but could serve as a guide for outcome
  • Includes primary authority from other jurisdictions and secondary authority

Other considerations affecting weight of authority I (case law)

  • Recency
  • Strength of reasoning
  • Reputation of court or judge authoring opinion
  • Citation with approval by later courts

Other considerations affecting weight II (case law)

Extent of judicial consensus:

  • Unanimous opinion
  • Divided court (e.g., 6-3, 5-4)
  • Plurality (no one rationale commands a majority of justices)
  • Concurrence
  • Dissent

Other considerations affecting weight III (case law)

Attributes of judicial/institutional authorship:

  • En banc (majority of judges sitting within a U.S. Circuit Court) v. Panel (3-judge opinion)
  • Per curiam (opinion “by the court” without individual judicial authorship)
  • Memorandum (court disposition without opinion)
  • Unpublished opinion (not published in a reporter)

Other considerations affecting weight IV (case law)

Nature of court ruling/statement on issue:

  • holding v. dicta
  • first holding v. alternate holding
  • explicit holding v. implicit holding

Other considerations affecting weight (secondary authority)

  • Restatements reflect the law among a majority of jurisdictions — adds to persuasiveness
  • Critical and analytic commentaries (more often found in scholarly treatises and law review articles) are weightier than more descriptive surveys and summaries of the law, e.g., encyclopedias

The Bluebook: a manual of citation practice

  • Citation rules for law review footnotes — no citations in main text of law review
  • Citation rules for court documents and legal memoranda

A Walk Through The Bluebook: Key Features

  • Quick Reference inside back cover
  • Extensive index at back
  • Blue-colored Practitioners’ Notes (for court documents and legal memoranda)
  • Blue-colored Tables pages

Citation in Court Documents and Legal Memoranda

  • Authorities that support or contradict entire sentences in text are given in separate citation sentences that begin with capital letter and end with period
  • Authorities supporting or contradicting only part of a sentence are cited in clauses, set off by commas, immediately following proposition they refer to (P.2)

The Structure of a Case Citation

Szekeres v. Schaeffer, 304 F. Supp. 2d 296 (D. Conn. 2004)

The Structure of a Case Citation: full citation form

  • Case name (Rule 10.2)
  • Reporter name, volume, and page (Rule 10.3, 3.2, 3.3)
  • Parenthetical with name of court rendering opinion and jurisdiction, if not clear from reporter (Rule 10.4), and date (Rule 10.5)

Szekeres v. Schaeffer, 304 F. Supp. 2d 296 (D. Conn. 2004)

  • Omit given names or initials of individual litigants (Rule 10.2.1 (g))
  • If the case is a consolidation of two or more actions, cite only the first one listed (Rule 10.2.1 (a))
  • Omit all parties other than first listed on each side, and omit words indicating multiple parties, such as “et al.” (Rule 10.2.1 (a))

Szekeres v. Schaeffer, 304 F. Supp. 2d 296(D. Conn. 2004)

  • Citation to a reporter designates the volume number (Rules 10.3.2, 3.2))
  • Citation includes abbreviated name of the reporter (Table 1)
  • Insert a space between “Supp.” and ordinal “2d” but no space if reporter abbreviation is a single capital, e.g., F.3d (Rule 6.1(a))
  • Citation includes page on which the report begins (Rules 10.3.2, 3.3(a))

Szekeres v. Schaeffer, 304 F. Supp. 2d 296 (D. Conn. 2004)

  • Parenthetical indicates year of a reported decision (Rule 10.5 (a))
  • If not clear from reporter, include deciding court and geographic jurisdiction according to abbreviations listed in tables T.1 and T.2 (Rule 10.4)

The Structure of a Short Form Citation I

  • Omit name of one or both parties
  • Omit first page of case
  • Omit parenthetical with court and date
  • Include “at” to indicate page on which specific text appears (P.4 (a))

Short Form Citation I

Giron v. Corrections Corp. of America, 14 F. Supp. 2d 1245 (D.N.M. 1998) would be shortened to: Giron, 14 F. Supp. 2d at 1247. (P.4 (a))

The Structure of a Short Form Citation II

  • Use Id. when you cite again to an immediately preceding authority (i.e., no intervening citations)
  • Capitalize Id. when it begins a citation sentence (but not if it appears within a sentence)
  • Run the italics or underline under the period
  • If specific page you cite is the same as preceding citation, just cite as Id., but otherwise use: Id. at (page number). (Rule 4.1, P.4 (a))

Short Form Citation II

If no intervening citations, you can shorten citation to page 1247 of Giron v. Corrections Corp. of America, 14 F. Supp. 2d 1245 (D.N.M. 1998) after a full citation to the case to: Id. at 1247. (Rule 4.1, P.4 (a))

Some Review Of The Rules:

Giron v. Corrections Corp. of America, 14 F. Supp. 2d 1245 (D.N.M. 1998)

  • Omit given name of individual litigant (Rule 10.2.1 (g))
  • Abbreviate business designations (Rule 10.2.1(c))
  • Include designations of national or larger geographical areas except in union names (Rule 10.2.1(f))
  • No space between single adjacent capitals--note court abbreviation in parenthetical (Rule 6.1 (a))

More on Abbreviations:

Giron v. Corrections Corp. of America, 14 F. Supp. 2d 1245 (D.N.M. 1998):

  • If citing case in a separate citation sentence (P.2), abbreviate words in case names further according to Table 6 and abbreviate geographical unit, unless the unit itself is a named party, according to Table 11 (Rule 10.2.2)

Giron v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 14 F. Supp. 2d 1245 (D.N.M. 1998)

A Note on Star Paging

  • The corresponding page of a reported edition of the same text appears in bold preceded by an asterisk at the point in the text where that page number in the other edition would begin
  • When using a computer printout of a case, don’t cite to computer page but to corresponding page of reported edition (refer to Table 1 for your jurisdiction for reporter priorities where there is more than one reported version of a case)

Assignment: Interactive Citation Workbook for The Bluebook

Ignore reference in the text to online exercises unless your instructor directs otherwise.

  • Exercise 1 (pp. 6-7): #s 1-10
  • Exercise 2 (pp. 15-16): #s 1, 3, 5
  • Exercise 3 (pp. 22-23): #s 2, 5, 6, 8
  • Exercise 5 (pp. 39-41): #s 8, 9, 10 (Look up unfamiliar terms, e.g. “string cite,” in the index to The Bluebook.)

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