One of the most commonly cited sources in legal writing is judicial opinions. A citation to a judicial opinion is typically referred to as a “case” or “court case” citation.
In this guide, we’ve laid out the essential Bluebook elements and Bluebook examples for a few of the most common types of case citations. This guide is only a general reference and starting point and should be used in conjunction with LegalEase Citations or the Bluebook.
As seen in the example above, the essential elements of a Bluebook case citation are:
There are extensive Bluebook rules regarding what parts of the party names are to be included, omitted, or abbreviated. And the parties’ names are italicized or underlined depending on the ultimate use of the citation.
A citation needs to help the reader locate the source, so the volume of the specific reporter in which the case is published is included.
Reporters are books or publications (usually with numerous volumes) that compile judicial opinions for a jurisdiction, geographic region, or a single court. The Bluebook contains many rules for omitting, including, abbreviating, and prioritizing which reporter is being cited.
First Page of the Case
A case citation should include the first page of the particular reporter on which the judicial opinion begins.
Generally, a Bluebook citation will include the name of the court that produced the opinion being cited. Like with other elements, the Bluebook prescribes extensive rules for how to abbreviate the name of the court and when to include or omit the name entirely – considering factors like the court’s supremacy and the reporter’s name.
Finally, a Bluebook case citation includes the year the case was decided.
United States Supreme Court Cases
When citing a United States Supreme Court opinion, the Bluebook says that you must cite from the United States Reporter (abbreviated as “U.S.”)—the official reporter. If the case isn’t published there, you must cite from the Supreme Court Reporter (abbreviated as “S. Ct.”). Finally, if the case isn’t found in the Supreme Court Reporter, then you must cite from the United States Supreme Court Reports, Lawyers’ Edition (abbreviated as “L. Ed.”). Below are three examples of the United States Supreme Court Bluebook citations using the above three sources.
United States Reporter
Supreme Court Reporter
United States Supreme Court Reports, Lawyers’ Edition
U.S. Court of Appeals
If you are Bluebook citing a case that was decided in a U.S. Court of Appeals, you will most likely find it published in the Federal Reporter, produced by West Publishing. There are currently three series of the Federal Reporter that are cited as “F.”, “F.2d”, or “F.3d”. This is an example of a citation of a U.S. Court of Appeals Bluebook citation:
U.S. District Court
If you are citing a case decided in a U.S. District Court, you will most likely find it published in the Federal Supplement reporter, produced by West Publishing. There are currently three series of the Federal Supplement that are cited as “F. Supp.”, “F. Supp. 2d”, or “F. Supp. 3d”. This is an example of a citation of a U.S. District Court Bluebook case citation:
U.S. state judicial opinions are frequently published in more than one place. Judicial opinions from U.S. states can be published by official reporters from the states themselves. Also, state cases can be found in unofficial publications called “Regional Reporters.” West Publishing produces these regional reporters (broken down into seven regions). The Bluebook says that the unofficial regional reporters should be cited, over the official state reporters, given the option. Here are two examples of Bluebook state court case citations under both circumstances:
Short Form Citations
You will likely need to refer to the same citation several times throughout your legal writing. The Bluebook has extensive rules for referring to the cited case in a shorter format. This is known as the “short form” citation. While there is a general format for Bluebook short-form case citations, other formats can also be used, depending on preference and circumstance. In the four short-form citation examples below, notice how each successive citation gets shorter but still contains enough information to clearly indicate to the reader which case is being referred to. Also, note the word “at” is included before the page is referenced.
The last example shows the use of “Id.” which is an abbreviation of the Latin term idem – meaning “the same.” Generally, you would use this format when the case you’re referring to was mentioned in the preceding citation. The Bluebook contains additional rules for when it is appropriate to use this format.
The sheer complexity of the Bluebook means that citing a court case can be time-consuming, confusing, and daunting. This guide has only scratched the surface of the countless rules contained in the Bluebook that need to be considered to create an accurate Bluebook court case citation. These rules deal with everything from correctly formatting party names to abbreviating the correct words and adding context-dependent parenthetical information, to name only a few. The LegalEase Citations Bluebook Citation Generator is designed to make this process as simple as possible while producing a completely accurate court case citation, no matter how complex. Try a free trial at LegalEase Citations today. Let us make your life just a little easier.