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Bluebook Guide: Cases

A LibGuide to the Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation. Updated for the 20th edition.

Additional help with the bluebook

Space or no space?

When abbreviating courts and reporters, you may notice some funny spacing...

Why are there spaces in "F. Supp. 2d" but not in "F.2d"?

According to R 6.1(a):

  • Do not include a space between two capital letters: S.D.N.Y
  • Numbers, including ordinals, are treated like capital letters: F.3d
  • Include a space between single capital letters and longer abbreviations: F. Supp.
  • Include a space between abbreviations containing two or more letters: Cal. App.

Do it with style

Rule 1 tells you where to put citations, and the nitty gritty rules for citing particular authorities begin with Rule 10 for cases.  What's in between are the style rules.  These rules apply to everything in the Whitepages. 

It pays to know these rules, or at least know where they are, before you jump into the authority-specific rules.

R2 Typefaces for Law Reviews

R3 Subdivisions (citing parts of larger works)

R4 Short Citation Forms

R5 Quotations

R6 Abbreviations, Numerals, and Symbols

R7 Italicization for Style and in Unique Circumstances

R8 Capitalization

R9 Titles of Judges, Officials, and Terms of Court

Case citation: R10

The Whitepages rules for case citations are under R10, starting on page 87 of your Bluebook. 

Follow the rules below step by step to create a full citation.  Remember, in legal citation "versus" is always abbreviated to "v." That rule is buried in the Bluebook! (hint: look at the middle of page 87)

Note: The citation below assumes you are creating a citation sentence for use in a footnote.  Case names in textual sentences and citations are different in typeface and abbreviation.  See R10.2.

Full Citation: R10.1 - 10.8

Example: Meritor Sav. Bank, FSB v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57 (1986).

Citation created from this:

477 U.S. 57, 106 S.Ct. 2399, 40 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. (BNA) 1822, 40 Empl. Prac. Dec. P 36,159, 91 L.Ed.2d 49, 54 USLW 4703
 
Supreme Court of the United States

MERITOR SAVINGS BANK, FSB, Petitioner
v.
Mechelle VINSON et al.

No. 84–1979.

Argued March 25, 1986.
Decided June 19, 1986
  1. First, note the typeface. 
    1. Because this is a citation, the case name is in ordinary roman type. - R2.1(a)
    2. Case names in textual material are italicized. - R2.2(a)(i)
  2. Case Name- R10.2
    1. The abbreviation of a case name depends on whether you are using the name of the case in a textual sentence or in a citatation in a footnote.  The rules in R10.2.1 are the general rules for case names.  If the case name appears in a citation, R10.2.2 also applies.  Again, this example assumes you are writing a citation for a footnote. 
    2. For individuals, include only their surname - R10.2.1(g)
      1. "Mechelle Vinson" is shortened to "Vinson"
    3. Abbreviate words in case names according to Table T6 (p. 430) - R10.2.2
      1. "Savings" is shortened to "Sav."
    4. Important rule to remember:  Abbreviate states, countries, and other geographical units according to Table T10 (p. 436), unless it's the entire name of the party (e.g., the State of Tennessee) - R10.2.2
  3. Reporter- R10.3
    1. Choosing a reporter:  You can see this case was reported in no fewer than six places.  How do you pick? 
      1. The general Bluebook rule is to follow the rules for a particular jurisdiction found in Table T1. 
        1. For United States Suprme Court decisions, cite to "U.S." T1.1
        2. If the decision isn't in the U.S. reporter yet, cite to S.Ct., L. Ed., or U.S.L.W., in that order T1.1
      2. Note: for state court decisions, the Whitepages require you to cite to the relevant regional reporter (i.e. N.W.2d, A.2d).
    2. Include volume number - R10.3.2, R3.1
      1. "477"
    3.  Include the reporter name abbreviated according to Table T1 (p. 215) - R10.3.2
      1. "U.S."
    4.  Include the page number on which case begins - R10.3.2, R3.2
      1. "57"
    5. If you are referring to specific material within a case, include both the page on which the case begins and a pincite - R3.2
  4. Court and Jurisdiction- R10.4
    1. Include name of court and its geographical jurisdiction, unless citing to the United States Supreme Court or the highest court of any state.  In those cases, the name of the reporter you use according to T1 will include the name of the state (i.e. decisions of the Michigan Supreme Court are cited to the Michigan Reports, abbreviated to "Mich.")
      1. Abbreviate courts and jurisdictions according to T1 (p. 215) for U.S. jurisdictions or T2 (p. 277) for foreign jurisdictions, if they are included in those tables
      2. If the court and jurisdiction is not found in T1 or T2, abbreviate according to T7 (p. 432) for court names and T10 (p. 436) for geographical terms
  5. Date or Year of Decision - R10.5

    Short form: R10.9

    When can you use a short form?  You can use a short form in law review footnotes if your short form is for a case that is:

    1. already cited in the same footnote OR
    2. cited in any form (short or full) in one of the preceeding five footnotes

    Three basic short forms for cases:

    1. Case name: ex. Meritor Sav. Bank, 477 U.S. at 60
      1. Note the typeface. - R2.1(a)
      2. Shortened Case Name (include name of the first party; shorten long party names)
      3. Reporter Volume Number and Abbreviated Name
      4. Pincite
    2. Volume and pincite: ex. 477 U.S. at 60 
    3. Id. (use only if referring to an authority within the same footnote or the immediately preceding footnote, provided that the footnote only contains one authority) - R4.1

    R4 provides the basic rules for short forms.  More specific rules for cases are found in R10.9. 

    Illinois Public-Domaiin Case Citation

    Illinois courts have implemented a system of public-domain case citation for opinions issued on or after July 1, 2011. Opinions issued prior to July 1, 2011 are not subject to the new system and will continue to be cited as they have been in the past.

    As of July 1, 2011, the official Illinois court reporters, Illinois Reports and Illinois Appellate Reports, are no longer being published. All opinions issued by the Illinois Supreme Court and the Illinois Appellate Court on or after July 1, 2011, will be assigned a unique public-domain case designator and will be posted on the Supreme Court’s website.

    When citing an Illinois court opinion issued on or after July 1, 2011, the public-domain case citation must be used.  Parallel citations to the North Eastern Reporter and West’s Illinois Decisions may be included, but are not required. West Publishing Company will continue to publish all opinions issued by the Illinois Supreme Court and the Illinois Appellate Court in both the North Eastern Reporter and in West’s Illinois Decisions.  West will continue to assign key numbers to those opinions. 

    When citing an Illinois court opinion issued prior to July 1, 2011, continue to use the official Illinois Reports or Illinois Appellate Reports citation.  Parallel citations to the North Eastern Reporter and West’s Illinois Decisions may be included, but are not required.