How to Cite a Court Case

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Whether you refer to a court case in a publication, book or essay, there is a right way and wrong way to cite a court case. The proper way to cite a court case depends on the style manual you follow when writing. Two of the most common styles used in academic writing are APA and Chicago styles.

Whether you refer to a court case in a publication, book or essay, there is a right way and wrong way to cite a court case. The citation depends on the style manual you follow when writing. Two of the most common styles used in academic and scholarly writing are American Psychological Association (APA) style and Chicago style.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

When citing a court case, you need to include the case name, where the case was published, the page it was published on and the year the case was decided.

Both styles differentiate between citations for U.S. Supreme Court cases and those for cases in state and federal courts. They also differentiate between in-text citations and citations for references or footnotes.

In-text citations are abbreviated, while reference citations are more detailed. The more detailed citations must include the abbreviation for the reporter in which the decision is published, the volume number of the reporter, the number of the first page of the case and the page number that contains the material being referenced. Reporters are publications that hold the opinions of each court.

APA and Chicago styles for citing court cases are based on “The Bluebook,” which is the style guide followed by most law schools and many U.S. federal courts. “The Bluebook” has an extensive set of rules regarding citing court cases. Both the “Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association” and “The Chicago Manual of Style” simplify things.

How to Cite a Court Case in APA?

Using the APA, in-text citations are the same whether for the U.S. Supreme Court or state and federal courts. To cite a court case in APA style within text, state the name of the case and the year of the decision, all in parentheses. The case name should use the first part of the two parties in the case and be italicized.

To cite a Supreme Court case in APA style in the reference section, include the name of the case, the case citation and the year of the decision in parentheses. The name of the case is abbreviated to include the important words in each party’s name, but is not italicized.

Citing a state or federal court case in a reference citation needs to include the name of the court that decided the case, as well. This should be included next to the year of the decision.

How to Cite a Court Case in Chicago Style

Citing a court case in Chicago style is slightly different than doing so in APA style, but only for in-text citations. In-text, short-form citations for either the Supreme Court or federal or state courts include the name of only one party to the case, typically the plaintiff or nongovernmental party. If citing the entire decision, the citation includes the party’s name (in italics), volume of the reporter, reporter and the page on which the decision begins. If citing a particular page in a case, the citation includes the party’s name, volume of the reporter, reporter and the page being cited.

Citing a court case in the footnotes using Chicago style is the same as reference citations in APA style.

How to Cite a Court Case Example

Here are some examples of how to cite a court case using APA and Chicago styles.

To cite a Supreme Court case:

  • In APA style, in text: (Miranda v. Arizona, 1966)
  • In APA style, in references: Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966).
  • In Chicago style, in text: (Miranda, 384 S. Ct. 436)
  • In Chicago style, in footnotes: Miranda v. Arizona, 384 S. Ct. 436 (1966).

To cite a federal or state court case:

  • In APA style, in text: (Friedman v. Merck, 2003)
  • In APA style, in references: Friedman v. Merck, 107 Cal.App.4th 454 (Cal. 1966).
  • In Chicago style, in text: (Friedman, 107 Cal.App.4th 454)
  • In Chicago style, in footnotes: Friedman v. Merck, 107 Cal.App.4th 454 (Cal. 1966).

If you are citing a particular page in the court case, the page number should be included after the first page of the court case. For example, in Chicago style in the footnotes: Miranda v. Arizona, 384 S. Ct. 436, 440 (1966).

When citing a court case, be sure to read through the complete rules of whichever style guide you use.

References

About the Author

Leslie Bloom earned a J.D. from U.C. Davis’ King Hall, with a focus on public interest law. She is a licensed attorney who has done advocacy work for children and women. She holds a B.S. in print journalism, and has more than 20 years of experience writing for a variety of print and online publications, including the Journal of Juvenile Law and Policy.