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Manual of Legal Citation/Background Rules

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Manual of Legal Citation
Table of Contents
Indigo Book.png
Foreword and Introduction
Background Rules
Rule 1. Two Types of Legal Documents
Rule 2. Typeface Standards
Rule 3. In-Text Citations
Rule 4. Signals
Rule 5. Capitalization Rules
Rule 6. Signals for Supporting Authority
Rule 7. Signals for Comparison
Rule 8. Signals for Contradictory Authority
Rule 9. Signals for Background Material
Rule 10. Order of Authorities Within Each Signal / Strength of Authority
Rule 11. Full citation
Rule 12. Court & Year
Rule 13. Weight of Authority and Explanatory Parenthetical
Rule 14. History of the Case
Rule 15. Short Form Citation for Cases
Statutes, Rules, Regulations, and Other Legislative & Administrative Materials
Rule 16. Federal Statutes
Rule 17. State Statutes
Rule 18. Rules of Procedure and Evidence, Restatements, and Uniform Acts
Rule 19. Administrative Rules and Regulations
Rule 20. Federal Taxation Materials
Rule 21. Legislative Materials
Rule 22. Short Form Citation of Legislative and Administrative Materials
Rule 23. Sources and Authorities: Constitutions
Court & Litigation Documents
Rule 24. Citing Court or Litigation Documents from Your Case
Rule 25. Citing Court or Litigation Documents from Another Case
Rule 26. Short Form Citation for Court Documents
Rule 27. Capitalization Within the Text of Court Documents and Legal Memoranda
Books & Non-Periodicals
Rule 28. Full Citation for Books & Non-Periodicals
Rule 29. Short Form Citation for Books & Non-Periodicals
Journals, Magazines, & Newspaper Articles
Rule 30. Full Citation for Journals, Magazines & Newspaper Articles
Rule 31. Short Form Citation for Journals, Magazines & Newspaper Articles
Internet Sources
Rule 32. General Principles for Internet Sources
Rule 33. Basic Formula for Internet Sources
Rule 34. Short Form Citations for Internet Sources
Explanatory Parentheticals
Rule 35. General Principles for Explanatory Parentheticals
Rule 36. Order of parentheticals
Rule 37. General Principles for Quotations
Rule 38. Alterations of Quotations
Rule 39. Omissions in Quotations
Rule 40. Special Rules for Block Quotations
Table 1. Federal Judicial and Legislative Materials
Table 2. Federal Administrative and Legislative Materials
Table 3. U.S. States and Other Jurisdictions
Table 4. Required Abbreviations for Services
Table 5. Required Abbreviations for Legislative Documents
Table 6. Required Abbreviations for Treaty Sources
Table 7. Required Abbreviations for Arbitral Reporters
Table 8. Required Abbreviations for Intergovernmental Organizations
Table 9. Required Abbreviations for Court Names
Table 10. Required Abbreviations for Titles of Judges and Officials
Table 11. Required Abbreviations for Case Names In Citations
Table 12. Required Abbreviations for Geographical Terms
Table 13. Required Abbreviations for Document Subdivisions
Table 14. Required Abbreviations for Explanatory Phrases
Table 15. Required Abbreviations for Institutions
Table 16. Required Abbreviations for Publishing Terms
Table 17. Required Abbreviations for Month Names
Table 18. Required Abbreviations for Common Words Used In Periodical Names
Table 19. Table of Citation Guides
Table 20. Tables of Correspondence

R1. Two Types of Legal Documents

There are two basic varieties of legal documents. The Uniform System of Citation imposes somewhat different citation rules for each.

R1.1. Standard Legal Documents (SLDs)

These are the documents lawyers file in courts, agencies, or other places where practicing lawyers do what they do (e.g., briefs and motions). They also include the documents lawyers write to one another or to the public (e.g., legal letters and legal memoranda). We will refer to these as standard legal documents.

R1.2. Academic Legal Documents (ALDs)

These are articles for publication in law reviews. We will refer to them as "law review articles."
Indigo Inkling
For reasons that make very little sense, the Uniform System of Citation treats law review articles and standard legal documents differently. If we were designing the system from scratch, we'd scrap this distinction. But for the moment, we’re stuck with it. In The Indigo Book, we’ll state the rules for standard legal documents. When we need to refer to law review articles specifically, we'll do that.

R2. Typeface Standards

R2.1. Italicized terms

Only the following items should be italicized:
  • Case names—both full and short case names, and procedural phrases (e.g., In re and ex parte) preceding the case names (but note the special guidance for law review articles in Rule 11.2.3);
  • Book titles
  • Article titles
  • Legislative materials’ titles
  • Introductory signals (e.g., see, cf. and accord)
  • Explanatory phrases that introduce subsequent case history (e.g., aff’d or cert. denied)
  • Cross references, (e.g., infra, supra and id.)
  • Words and phrases that introduce related authority (e.g., reprinted in and available in)

R2.2. Italicized terms in text of standard legal documents

The following words should be italicized when used in the text of standard legal documents:
  • Publication titles (e.g., The Onion)
  • Words that are italicized in the original quotation; and
  • All words that would be italicized in the text (e.g., foreign words that are not commonly used in English language documents).
Indigo Inkling
The typewriter was invented around the 1860s. The first edition of The Bluebook is from 1926. Typewriters of that era did not support italics or boldface. If you wanted to emphasize text, your sole option was to underline. Throughout The Indigo Book, you'll see us italicizing text rather than underlining, because that’s how we do it in the 21st Century. The Bluebook 20th Ed. still gives you the option to do either, but you know where we stand.

R3. In-Text Citations

R3.1. Standard legal documents

For standard legal documents, in-text citations are rendered either as (i) a complete sentence that supports a claim in the immediately preceding sentence of text, or, (ii) when the citation relates to a particular part of a sentence, as a clause within the sentence, immediately following the claim it supports.
  • Only use footnotes for standard legal documents when allowed by a court’s local rules.
  • In contrast to standard legal documents, law review articles rely on footnotes for citations.

R3.2. Citations following sentences

  • Most citations in standard legal documents follow complete text sentences. It is common to have several citations following a sentence, with each citation separated by a semicolon (known as a “string citation”).
  • It is also common to employ more than one introductory signal, with citations introduced by different signals arranged as separate sentences. (For the order in which introductory signals are arranged, see Rule 4.2, below.) Use this citation method to cite to sources and authorities that relate to the sentence as a whole.
  • Example: Even if the meaning of the statute were not plain, the FCC’s construction of the 1996 Act is reasonable and therefore entitled to deference. See Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Nat. Res. Def. Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984); see also Nat’l Cable & Telecomms. Ass’n. v. Brand X Internet Svcs., 545 U.S. 967, 1000 (2005) (holding that Chevron mandates that courts defer to the FCC’s reasonable interpretation of its authority under the statutes that the agency administers, even where a current FCC interpretation is inconsistent with past practice); Home Care Ass’n. of Am. v. Weil, 799 F.3d 1084 (D.C. Cir. 2015) (finding the Department of Labor’s reasonable interpretation of a provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act was entitled to deference under Chevron, even where it contravened previous reasonable interpretation of same provision).

R3.3. Citations Within Sentences

  • Some citations in standard legal documents are placed within sentences. Use within-sentence citations to cite sources and authorities that relate to only a section of the sentence. Separate within-sentence citations from the text with commas. The citation clauses directly follow the claim which they support. Do not model them after normal sentences unless:
    • the clause opens with a source that would be capitalized anyway—this is the only case where the clause should begin with a capital letter; or
  • it is the sentence’s final clause—this is the only case where the clause should end with a period.
  • Example: Knowingly throwing undersized groupers overboard to avoid federal agents investigating a violation of federal conservation regulations is not destruction of evidence within the meaning of the Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002, see Yates v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 1074 (2015), even though the Eleventh Circuit fishily held just the opposite, United States v. Yates, 733 F.3d 1059 (11th Cir. 2013).
Indigo Inkling
Scholars have criticized this elaborate system of string citations, requiring the writer to determine not only the degrees of authoritativeness of relied-upon works but also to disclose their precise relevance, including (perplexingly) sources contrary to the writer’s argument. One might ask why the legal profession chose for itself such an odd and onerous citation system. One commentator describes the system as derived from an “anxiety of authoritativeness.” Michael Bacchus, Strung Out: Legal Citation, The Bluebook, and the Anxiety of Authority, 151 U Pa. L Rev. 245 (2002).

R4. Signals

R4.1. Purpose of Signals

A signal illustrates the relationship between the author’s assertion and the source cited for that assertion. The signal begins the citation sentence or clause.

R4.2. Categories of Signals

There are four basic categories of signals:
Category Signals
Signals for Supporting Authority (1) [No signal]
(2) E.g.,
(3) Accord
(4) See
(5) See Also
(6) Cf.
Signals for Comparison (7) Compare <citation to source(s), separated with “and” if multiple> with <citation to source(s), separated with “and” if multiple>
Signals for Contradictory Authority (8) Contra
(9) But see
(10) But cf.
Signals for Background Material (11) See generally

R4.3. Order of Authorities in Signal

When more than one authority is used in the same citation, they should be ordered first according to hierarchy of introductory signals (see table above), and then within each signal by strength of authority using a semicolon in between each one (see Rule 10: Order of Authorities Within Each Signal / Strength of Authority below).
Indigo Inkling
For citation sentences, signals in the same category are listed within a single citation sentence, each one marked off by semicolons; signals in separate categories, however, should be listed in separate citation sentences.
  • Example: “Legal professionals love to hate string citations, and critics have no shortage of reasons to view them with contempt.” Mark Cooney, Stringing Readers Along, Mich. B.J. 44 (Dec. 2006); see also Gerald Lebovits, Write the Cites Right—Part II, 76 N.Y. St. B.J. 64 (Dec. 2004); Mark P. Painter, 30 Tips to Improve Readability in Briefs and Legal Documents Or, How to Write for Judges, not Like Judges, 31 Mont. Law 6 (Apr. 2006). But cf. The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (Columbia Law Review Ass’n et al. eds., 20th ed. 2015) (creating and maintaining a complicated system of citation signals which may encourage this kind of behavior). See generally Richard A. Posner, Against Footnotes, 38 Ct. Rev. 24 (2001).
Indigo Inkling
For citation clauses, all signals (irrespective of category) are listed within a single citation clause and separated by semicolons.
  • Example: Justice Scalia once noted that “the Constitution sometimes insulates the criminality of a few in order to protect the privacy of us all,” Arizona v. Hicks, 480 U.S. 321, 329 (1987); see also Maryland v. King, 133 S. Ct. 1958, 1989 (2013) (Scalia, J., dissenting) (“Solving unsolved crimes is a noble objective, but it occupies a lower place in the American pantheon of noble objectives than the protection of our people from suspicionless law-enforcement searches.”), and later applied that principle to limit police use of thermal imaging technology, see Kyllo v. United States, 389 U.S. 27 (2001); cf. United States v. Jones, 132 S. Ct. 945 (2012) (invalidating use of a GPS tracking device for long-term surveillance).

R5. Capitalization Rules

R5.1. Signal Capitalization

The signal is capitalized at the beginning of a citation sentence.
  • Example: Unbelievable as it may be, the Supreme Court has weighed in on the issue of whether a tomato is a fruit or vegetable. See Nix v. Heden, 149 U.S. 304 (1893).
R5.2. The signal is left in lowercase at the beginning of a citation clause.
  • Example: Even seemingly trivial issues, see, e.g., Nix v. Heden, 149 U.S. 304 (1893) (addressing the question of whether tomatoes are fruits or vegetables), can sometimes merit input from the Supreme Court.

R6. Signals for Supporting Authority

R6.1. Signal Not Needed

<no signal>: A citation does not need a signal if--
  • The source makes the same assertion; or
    • Example: To impose the death penalty on an individual who is criminally insane is unconstitutional. Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399, 410 (1986).
  • The assertion is a direct quotation from the source; or
    • Example: States are prohibited “from inflicting the penalty of death upon a prisoner who is insane.” Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399, 410 (1986).
  • The source is referred to in the assertion.
    • Example: In cases like Roper, Atkins, and Ford, the Supreme Court has established certain classes of individuals upon which the death penalty may not be imposed. Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551, 575 (2005); Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304, 321 (2002); Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399, 410 (1986).

R6.2. E.g.,

  • Use “e.g.,” if the cited source is one of multiple sources to make the same assertion. The citation may include however many sources the author finds to be helpful. Note that the comma in the signal “e.g.,” should NOT be italicized.
    • Example: In a criminal case, the state bears the burden of proving the defendant’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” E.g., State v. Purrier, 336 P.3d 574, 576 (Or. Ct. App. 2014).
    • Example: Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision in Riley v. California, 134 S. Ct. 2473 (2014), several circuits had generally allowed the police to conduct warrantless searches of cell phones of individuals under arrest. E.g., U.S. v. Murphy, 552 F.3d 405, 411 (4th Cir. 2009); U.S. v. Finley, 477 F.3d 250, 260 (5th Cir. 2007).
  • E.g.,” may also be used following any other signal, in which case an italicized comma should separate the two signals. Note: The comma in the signal “e.g.,” should NOT be italicized.
    • Example: Several states have enacted legislation requiring witnesses to report certain crimes to authorities. See, e.g., Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18-8-115 (West 2014); Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 268, § 40 (West 2014); Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2921.22 (West 2014).
    • Example: Most states have not enacted legislation requiring witnesses to report crimes to authorities. But see, e.g., Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18-8-115 (West 2014); Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 268, § 40 (West 2014); Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2921.22 (West 2014).

R6.3. Accord

R6.4. See

  • See is used when an authority does not directly state but clearly supports the proposition. See is used instead of <no signal> when an inferential step is required to connect the proposition to the authority cited.
    • Example: The defendant in a criminal case cannot be forced to testify against himself or herself. See U.S. Const. amend. V.

R6.5. See also

  • See also is used for additional sources that support a proposition. Use see also when authority that states or clearly supports the proposition has already been cited or discussed. The use of a parenthetical is recommended when using see also.
    • Example: Slow and steady wins the race. See Don Daily, The Classic Treasury of Aesop’s Fables 43-46 (1999); see also The Shawshank Redemption (Castle Rock Entertainment 1994) (prisoner tunnels out of a prison by removing a few stones per day).

R6.6. Cf.

  • Cf. is used for supporting authority that is analogous to your proposition, or which is related but which requires some interpretive work to connect to your proposition. Always use a parenthetical with cf. to explain the logical connection required for the argument.
    • Example: In the legal realm, there is a need for an easy-to-use, standard set of citation rules. Cf. The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (Columbia Law Review Ass’n et al. eds., 20th ed. 2015) (demonstrating, by virtue of 20 editions, the need for such a system, but producing a system that is overly complex).

R7. Signals for Comparison

R7.1. Compare. . ., with

Compare <citation to source or authority>, with <citation to source or authority>
  • Compare . . . is used when the relationship of multiple authorities will demonstrate or offer support for the proposition. It is highly recommended that each authority in the comparison be explained with a parenthetical in order to make the relationship and argument clear to the reader. Each portion of the compare . . . signal may contain multiple sources; separate these sources using commas and italicized “and” as follows.
    • Example: The 20th Century saw sweeping changes in the definition and scope of the Due Process Clause. Compare Lochner v. New York, 198 U.S. 45 (1905) (showing the Supreme Court’s historical interpretation of the Due Process Clause as solely protecting an individual’s right to contract), with McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 742 (2010) (incorporating the Second Amendment using the Due Process Clause), BMW of North America, Inc. v. Gore, 517 U.S. 559 (1996) (utilizing the Due Process Clause to reduce punitive damages), and Dolan v. City of Tigard, 512 U.S. 374 (1994) (limiting the zoning and ordinance powers of local governments under the Due Process Clause).

R8. Signals for Contradictory Authority

R8.1. Contra

  • Contra is used when a cited authority directly conflicts with the proposition it follows. Contra is the opposite signal to <no signal>.
    • Example: The Bluebook is an example of absolute efficiency in the formulation and expression of the rules of legal citation. Contra Richard A. Posner, The Bluebook Blues, 120 Yale L.J. 950 (2011).

R8.2. But see

  • But see is used for authority that, while not directly contradicting the main proposition, nonetheless clearly opposes it. But see is the opposite signal to see.
    • Example: I have the right to falsely shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater. But see Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919).

R8.3. But cf.

  • But cf. is used to indicate that an authority supports a proposition that is similar to the opposite of the author’s main proposition. But cf. is the opposite signal to cf. Always use a parenthetical with but cf. to explain the logical connection required for the argument. This is the weakest signal for contrary authority.

R9. Signals for Background Material

R9.1. See generally

  • See generally is used for useful background material. It is recommended that you use a parenthetical with see generally in order to explain the authority’s relevance to the proposition.
    • Example: Some commentators have argued that the Supreme Court does more than “call balls and strikes,” and that politics may even be involved in some decisionmaking. See generally Jeffrey Toobin, The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court (2007) (arguing that the work of the Supreme Court often involves the Justices imposing values and even political preferences).

R10. Order of Authorities Within Each Signal / Strength of Authority

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Follow the order below for citing authorities within a signal. However, there is one exception: if an authority is more helpful than others cited within a signal, it should be cited first.

R10.1. Constitutions.

Order constitutions from the same jurisdiction from most recent to oldest.
  1. Federal
  2. State (alphabetize according to state)
  3. Foreign (alphabetize according to jurisdiction)
  4. Foundational Documents of International Groups (United Nations, the League of Nations, and the European Union, in that order)

R10.2. Statutes

R10.2.1. Federal

  1. Statutes in U.S.C., U.S.C.A., or U.S.C.S. (in ascending order by U.S.C. Title)
  2. Current statutes that are not in U.S.C., U.S.C.A., or U.S.C.S. (from most recently enacted to oldest)
  3. Rules of Evidence and Procedure
  4. Repealed Statutes (from most recently enacted to oldest)

R10.2.2. State

(alphabetize according to state):
  1. Statutes currently codified (in ascending order within the codification)
  2. Statutes currently in force but not currently codified (from most recently enacted to oldest)
  3. Rules of Evidence and Procedure
  4. Repealed Statutes (from most recently enacted to oldest)

R10.2.3. Foreign

(alphabetize according to jurisdiction):
  1. Codes or Statutes currently codified (in ascending order in the codification)
  2. Statutes currently in force but not currently codified (from most recently enacted to oldest)
  1. Repealed Statutes (from most recently enacted to oldest)

R10.3. Treaties and Other International Agreements

Treaties and Other International Agreements (other than those above) are cited from most recently ratified/signed to oldest.

R10.4. Cases

Order cases from the same court from most recent to oldest, without regard to prior or subsequent history. There’s no difference between Federal Circuit Court of Appeals or Federal District Courts.

R10.4.1. Federal

  1. Supreme Court
  2. Court of Appeals, Emergency Court of Appeals, and Temporary Emergency Court of Appeals
  3. Court of Claims, Court of Customs, and Patent Appeals and Bankruptcy Appellate Panels
  4. District Courts, Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, and Court of International Trade (formerly the Customs Court)
  5. District Bankruptcy Courts and Railroad Reorganization Court
  6. Court of Federal Claims (formerly the Trial Division for the Court of Claims), Court of Appeals for the Armed Services (formerly the Court of Military Appeals), and Tax Court (formerly the Board of Tax Appeals)
  7. Administrative Agencies (alphabetize according to agency)

R10.4.2. State

  1. Courts (alphabetize according to state, then by hierarchy in descending order)
  2. Agencies (alphabetize according to state, then by agency)

R10.4.3. Foreign

  1. Courts (alphabetize according to jurisdiction, then by hierarchy in descending order)
  2. Agencies (alphabetize according to jurisdiction, then by agency)

R10.4.4. International

  1. International Court of Justice, Permanent Court of International Justice
  2. Other International Tribunals and Arbitral Panels (in alphabetical order)

R10.5. Legislative Materials

Legislative Materials: (always cite federal materials first)
  1. Bills and Resolutions (most recent to oldest)
  2. Committee Hearings (most recent to oldest)
  3. Reports, Documents, and Committee Prints (most recent to oldest)
  4. Floor Debates (most recent to oldest)

R10.6. Administrative and Executive Materials

R10.6.1. Federal

  1. Executive Orders
  2. Current Treasury Regulations, Proposed Treasury Regulations
  3. All Other Regulations currently in force (numerically by C.F.R. title in ascending order)
  4. Proposed Rules not yet in force (numerically by future C.F.R. titles, if any, in ascending order; otherwise from most recently proposed to oldest)
  5. All Materials repealed (from most recently promulgated to oldest)

R10.6.2. State

  1. State (alphabetize according to state), currently in force, then repealed

R10.6.3. Foreign

  1. Foreign (alphabetize according to jurisdiction), currently in force, then repealed

R10.7. Intergovernmental Organizations

Resolutions, Decisions, and Regulations of Intergovernmental Organizations
  1. United Nations and League of Nations (from most recent to oldest by issuing body, listing General Assembly first, then Security Council, then other organs alphabetically)
  2. Other Organizations (in alphabetical order by name)

R10.8. Order of Records, Briefs, and Petitions

Records, Briefs, and Petitions are cited in the same order as discussed in Rule 10.4. Cases. Briefs from the same case and court are ordered: (i) plaintiff/petitioner; (ii) defendant/respondent; (iii) amicus curiae (alphabetize according to amicus party)

R10.9. Secondary Materials

  1. Uniform Codes, Model Codes, and Restatements, in that order (from most recent to oldest within each category)
  2. Books, Pamphlets, and Shorter Works in a collection of single author’s works (in alphabetical order by author’s last name; when there is no author, by the title’s first word)
  3. Journal Pieces (excluding magazines, newspapers, and student-written materials), including Forthcoming Works and Shorter Works in a collection of various authors’ works (in alphabetical order by first author’s last name)
  4. Book Reviews not written by students (alphabetize according to reviewer’s last name)
  5. Student-Written Law Review Pieces including Book Reviews (in alphabetical order by author’s last name; if there is no author, by the title’s first word; if there is no title, alphabetically by the periodical’s abbreviation)
  6. Annotations (from most recently published to oldest)
  7. Magazine and Newspaper Articles (in alphabetical order by author’s last name; if there is no author, by the title’s first word)
  8. Working Papers (in alphabetical order by author’s last name; if there is no author, by the title’s first word)
  9. Unpublished Materials not forthcoming (in alphabetical order by author’s last name; if there is no author, by the title’s first word)
  10. Electronic Sources, including Internet Sources (in alphabetical order by author’s last name; if there is no author, by the title’s first word)

R10.10. Author’s Text or Footnotes

Cross-references to the author’s own text or footnotes.