How to Cite Cases in The Bluebook

By Salvatore Jackson

The Bluebook is a style manual for legal citation developed and published by the Harvard Law Review Association. It is the authoritative style manual for legal citation accepted by law schools, legal publications and courts. Accurately following its rules allows legal researchers to quickly research and verify supporting legal materials. While many of The Bluebook's citation rules are complex, guidelines governing the citation of most court decisions are easy to follow.

Determine which court has issued the decision. If you are viewing a written legal opinion, the name of the court will be printed at the top of your opinion. Turn to Table 1 of The Bluebook, which lists sample citations for all state, federal and international courts.

Abbreviate the case name. If there are multiple plaintiffs or defendants in the decision, The Bluebook generally requires you to only use only the names of the first plaintiff and defendant. Therefore, a court decision where there are plaintiffs named Albert, Barrone and Cohen and defendants named Daniels, Edwards and Fallon will be abbreviated as Albert v. Daniels.

Abbreviate any words found in Table 6 or Table 10. Table 6 in The Bluebook lists many proper nouns that must be abbreviated. For instance, any appearance of the word "America" in the party names must be abbreviated to "Am." Table 10 lists geographic terms that must also be abbreviated.

Determine the reporter printing your decision. The reporter's name will likely appear at the top of the decision. If this is a state court case, it will likely be reported by both a regional reporter, such as the Southeastern Reporter, as well as a state reporter. The correct reporter to cite depends on where you are filing your document. If your document is being filed in state court, use the state reporter; otherwise, use the regional reporter.

Check the issue of the reporter printing your decision. You must cite your decision by the volume number, series number and page number where the first page of the opinion appears. For instance, a case starting on page 141 of volume 47 of the third series of the Southeastern Reporter would appear as "47 So.3d 141."

Include the court issuing your opinion and the year it was issued. Table 1 of The Bluebook will list the proper form for citing to all courts throughout the United States. Additionally, any court names listed in Table 7 of The Bluebook must be abbreviated.

About the Author

Salvatore Jackson began writing professionally in 2010. He has experience with international travel, computers, sports and law. Jackson is a licensed attorney with experience in legal research. He received his Juris Doctor from Tulane University in 2010.