US Legal References - References

AMA Manual of Style - Stacy L. Christiansen, Cheryl Iverson 2020

US Legal References

A specific style variation is used for references to legal citations. Because the system of citation used is complex, with numerous variations for different types of sources and among various jurisdictions, only a brief outline can be presented here. For more details, consult The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation.18

3.16.1 Method of Citation.

A legal reference may be included in the reference list in full, with a numbered citation in the text, or it may be included in the text parenthetically and not included in the reference list. In scholarly articles, a full citation in the reference list is preferred, but in a news article or book review, for example, a parenthetical citation in the text might be adequate.

■Full Citation

In a lawsuit regarding criminal transmission of HIV,1 the Iowa Supreme Court stated . . . .

In the case of Rhoades v State1 . . . .

This reference would then appear in the reference list as follows:

1.Rhoades v State, 848 NW2d 22 (Iowa 2013).

■Parenthetical In-Text Citation

In a leading decision on criminal transmission of HIV (Rhoades v State, 848 NW2d 22 [Iowa 2013]), the Iowa Supreme Court stated . . . .

In the case of Rhoades v State (848 NW2d 22 [Iowa 2013]) . . . .

3.16.2 Citation of Cases.

The citation of a case (ie, a court opinion) generally includes the following, in order:

■The name of the case (including the v) in italics; to shorten the case name, use only the name of the first party; omit “et al” and “the”; use only the last names of individuals

■The volume number, abbreviated name, and series number (if any) of the reporter (bound volume of collected cases)

■The page in the volume on which the case begins and, if applicable, the specific page or pages on which the point for which the case is being cited is discussed

■In parentheses, the name of the court that rendered the opinion (unless the court is identified by the name of the reporter) and the year of the decision; if the opinion is published in more than 1 reporter, the citations to each reporter (known as parallel citations) are separated by commas; note that v (for versus), 2d (for second), and 3d (for third) are standard usage in legal citations

1.Canterbury v Spence, 464 F2d 772, 775 (DC Cir 1972).

This case is published in volume 464 of the Federal Reporter, second series. The case begins on page 772, and the specific point for which it was cited is on page 775. The case was decided by the US Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, in 1972.

The proper reporter to cite depends on the court that wrote the opinion. Table T1.3 in The Bluebook18 contains a complete list of all current and former state and federal jurisdictions for the United States. The 20th edition of The Bluebook also has many examples of non-US cases. US Supreme Court.

Cite to US Reports (abbreviated as US). If the case is too recent to be published there, cite to Supreme Court Reporter (SCt), US Reports, Lawyer’s Edition (LEd), or US Law Week (USLW)—in that order. Do not include parallel citation. The format for these references includes the following, in the order specified (the punctuation is noted; where none is given after a bulleted item, none is used):

First party v Second party,

■Reporter volume number

■Official reporter abbreviation

■First page of case, specific pages used

■(Year of decision).

Some examples follow:

2.Ledbetter v Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, 550 US 618 (2007).

3.Addington v Texas, 441 US 418, 426 (1979).

4.King v Burwell, 576 US ___ (2015). US Court of Appeals.

Cite to Federal Reporter, original or second series (F or F2d). These intermediate appellate-level courts hear appeals from US district courts, federal administrative agencies, and other federal trial-level courts. Circuits are referred to by number (1st Cir, 2d Cir, etc) except for the District of Columbia Circuit (DC Cir) and the Federal Circuit (Fed Cir), which hears appeals from the US Claims Court and from various customs and patent cases. Divisions are denoted by ED (Eastern Division), WD (Western Division), ND (Northern Division), and SD (Southern Division). Citations to the Federal Reporter must include the circuit designation in parentheses with the year of the decision. The format for these references includes the following, in the order specified (the punctuation is noted; where none is given after a bulleted item, none is used):

First party v second party,

■Reporter volume number

■Official reporter abbreviation

■First page of case, specific page used

■(Deciding circuit court and year of decision).

Some examples follow:

5.United States vs Newman, 773 F3d 438 (2nd Cir 2014).

6.Scoles v Mercy Health Corp, 887 F Supp 765 (ED Pa 1994).

7.Bradley v University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Ctr, 3 F3d 922, 924 (5th Cir 1993).

8.Doe v Washington University, 780 F Supp 628 (ED Mo 1991). US District Court and Claims Courts.

Cite to Federal Supplement (F Supp). (There is only the original series so far.) These trial-level courts are not as prolific as the appellate courts; their function is to hear the original cases rather than review them. There are more than 100 of these courts, which are referred to by geographic designations that must be included in the citation (eg, the Northern District of Illinois [ND Ill], the Central District of California [CD Cal], but District of New Jersey [D NJ] because New Jersey has only 1 federal district).

9.Sierra Club v Froehlke, 359 F Supp 1289 (SD Tex 1973). State Courts.

Cite to the appropriate official (ie, state-sanctioned and state-financed) reporter (if any) and the appropriate regional reporter. Most states have separate official reporters for their highest and intermediate appellate courts (eg, Illinois Reports and Illinois Appellate Court Reports), but the regional reporters include cases from both levels. Official reporters are always listed first, although an increasing number of states are no longer publishing them. The regional reporters are the Atlantic Reporter (A or A2d), North Eastern Reporter (NE or NE2d), South Eastern Reporter (SE or SE2d), Southern Reporter (So or So2d), North Western Reporter (NW or NW2d), South Western Reporter (SW or SW2d), and Pacific Reporter (P or P2d). If only the regional reporter citation is given, the name of the court must appear in parentheses with the year of the decision. If the opinion is from the highest court of a state (usually but not always known as the supreme court), the abbreviated state name is sufficient (except for Iowa and Ohio). The full name of the court is abbreviated (eg, Ill App, NJ Super Ct App Div, NY App Div). A third, also unofficial, reporter is published for a few states; citations solely to these reporters must include the court name (eg, California Reporter [Cal Rptr], New York Supplement [NYS or NYS2d]). The format for these references includes the following, in the order specified (the punctuation is noted; where none is given after a bulleted item, none is used).

First party v second party,

■Reporter volume number

■Official state reporter abbreviation

■First page of case, specific page used

■Regional reporter and page number

■(Year of decision).

Some examples follow:

10.Szafranski v Dunston, 373 Ill Dec 197, 993 NE2d 502 (Ill App Ct 2013).

11.Reber v Reiss, 42 A3d 1131, 1135 (Pa Super Ct 2012).

12.In re Marriage of Witten, 672 NW2d 768, 777 (Iowa 2003).

13.Baxter v Montana. 2009 MT 449, 354 Mont 234, 224 P3d 1211 (Mont 2009).

14.Planned Parenthood v Casey, 505 US 833 (1992).

WL is Westlaw (, a legal citation database. A version of Westlaw’s database also exists for countries other than the United States (eg, for the United Kingdom).

When a case has been reviewed or otherwise dealt with by a higher court, the subsequent history of the case should be given in the citation. If the year is the same for both opinions, include it only at the end of the citation. The phrases indicating the subsequent history are set off by commas, italicized, and abbreviated (eg, aff ’d [affirmed by the higher court], rev’d [reversed], vacated [made legally void, annulled], appeal dismissed, cert denied [application for a writ of certiorari, ie, a request that a court hear an appeal has been denied]).

15.Kerins v Hartley, 21 Cal Rptr 2d 621 (1993) (vacated and remanded for reconsideration), 28 Cal Rptr 2d 151 (1994).

16.Glazer v Glazer, 374 F2d 390 (5th Cir), cert denied, 389 US 831 (1967).

This opinion was written by the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in 1967. In the same year, the US Supreme Court was asked to review the case in an application for a writ of certiorari but denied the request. This particular subsequent history is important because it indicates that the case has been taken to the highest court available and thus strengthens the case’s value as precedent for future legal decisions.

3.16.3 Legislative Materials.

US Government Publishing Office Federal Digital System website ( and the website for the US Congress ( are valuable resources for looking up US federal bills and laws. Citation of Congressional Hearings.

Include the full title of the hearing, the subcommittee (if any) and committee names, the number and session of the US Congress, the date, and a short description if desired.

1.Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Research & Technology; Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, 114th Cong, 1st Sess (2015) (testimony of Victor J. Dzau, MD, president, Institute of Medicine, The National Academy of Sciences). Accessed March 18, 2016.

2.Discrimination on the Basis of Pregnancy, 1977, Hearings on S 995 Before the Subcommittee on Labor of the Senate Committee on Human Resources, 95th Cong, 1st Sess (1977) (statement of Ethel B. Walsh, vice-chairman, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). US Federal Bills and Resolutions.

Legislation not yet enacted should include the name of the bill (if available), the abbreviated name of the US House of Representatives (HR) or the US Senate (S), the number of the bill, the number of the legislative body, the session number (if available), the section (if any), and the year of publication.18

3.21st Century Cures Act, HR 6, 114th Cong (2015). Accessed April 12, 2016.

4.Stop All Frequent Errors (SAFE) in Medicare and Medicaid Act of 2000, S 2378, 106th Cong, 2nd Sess (2000).

5.HR Rep No. 99-253, pt 1, at 54 (1985).

6.Koepge C. The Road to Industrial Peace: A Ten Year Study, HR Doc 82-563 (1953). US Federal Statutes.

Once a bill is enacted into law by the US Congress, it is integrated into the US Code (USC). Citations of statutes include the official name of the act, the title number (similar to a chapter number), the abbreviation of the code cited, the section number (designated by §), and the date of the code edition cited.

If the law is available online, the URL may also be included.

7.Female Genital Mutilation, 18 USC §116 (2012). Accessed March 18, 2016.

The above example cites section 116 of title 18 of the US Code.

A specific section of a bill or law may also be cited within the text:

The Drug Supply Chain Security Act states that dispensers “shall not accept ownership of a product, unless the previous owner prior to, or at the time of, the transaction, provides transaction history, transaction information, and a transaction statement” (§582[d][1][A]).

If a federal statute has not yet been codified, cite to Statutes at Large (abbreviated Stat, preceded by a volume number, and followed by a page number), if available, and the Public Law number of the statute.

8.Pub L No. 112-34, 125 Stat 369.

The name of the statute may be added if it provides clarification.

9.Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Pub L No. 111-148, 124 Stat 119 (2010). US Federal Administrative Regulations.

US federal regulations are published in the Federal Register and then codified in the Code of Federal Regulations. These references to the Federal Register are now treated as journal references. If a URL is available, that may also be included.

10.Importation of fruits and vegetables. Fed Regist. 1995;60(51):14202-14209. To be codified at 7 CFR §300.

11.Payment for Drugs, Definitions. 42 CFR §447.502 (2015).

12.Authority to Bill Third Party Payers for Full Charges. 42 CFR §411.31 (1996).

Regulations promulgated by the Internal Revenue Service retain their unique format. Temporary regulations must be denoted as such.

13.Treas Reg §1.72 (1963).

14.Temp Treas Reg §1.338 (1985). Bills and Resolutions for Individual States.

Legislation should include the name of the bill or resolution (if available), the abbreviated name of the US House of Representatives (HR) or the US Senate (S), the number of the bill, the number of the legislative body, the session number, and the state abbreviation and the year of enactment.18 Some bills will also have a URL associated with them, which may also be included.

15.An Act Relative to Substance Use Treatment, Education and Prevention, HR 4056, 189th Leg (Mass 2016). April 12, 2016. Accessed October 16, 2017.

16.End of Life. S 128. 2015-2016 Session (Ca 2015). State Statutes.

Table T1.3 in The Bluebook18 lists examples for each state and the District of Columbia.

17.Ill Rev Stat ch 38, §2 (1965).

This is section 2 of chapter 38 of the Illinois Revised Statutes.

18.Fla Stat §202 (2001).

This is section 202 of the Florida Statutes.

19.Mich Comp Laws §700.5506 (1998).

This is section 700.5506 of Michigan Compiled Laws.

20.Wash Rev Code §26.16.010 (2003).

This is section 26.16.010 of Revised Code of Washington.

21.Cal Corp Code §300 (West 1977).

This is section 300 of California Corporations Code and West is the name of the publisher.

Citation forms for state administrative regulations are especially diverse. Again, Table T1.3 in The Bluebook lists the appropriate form for each state. Legal Services.

Many legal materials, including some reports of cases and some administrative materials, are published by commercial services (eg, Commerce Clearing House), often in loose-leaf format. These services attempt to provide a comprehensive overview of rapidly changing areas of expertise (eg, tax law, labor law, securities regulation) and are updated frequently, sometimes weekly. The citation should include the volume number of the service; its abbreviated title; the publisher’s name (also abbreviated); the paragraph, section, or page number; and the date.

22.7 Sec Reg Guide (P-H) ¶2333 (1984).

The above example cites volume 7, paragraph 2333, of the Securities Regulation Guide, published by Prentice-Hall in 1984.

23.54 Ins L Rep (CCH) 137 (1979).

This is volume 54, page 137, of Insurance Law Reports, published by Commerce Clearing House in 1979.

24.4 OSH Rep (BNA) 750 (1980).

This is volume 4, page 750, of the Occupational Safety and Health Reporter, published by Bloomberg BNA in 1980. Law Journals.

Law journal references follow the same rules as medical journal references. List the authors (if any), the title of the article, the name of the journal, the volume number, issue number (or date, if there is no issue number), and page numbers.

25.Doe v Westchester County Med Center, NY State Division of Human Rights. N Y Law J. December 26, 1990;91:30.

26.Kim J. Patent infringement in personalized medicine: limitations of the existing exception mechanisms. Wash Univ Law Rev. 2018;96(3):623—647. Accessed September 26, 2019.