Bluebook Guide

The purpose of this guide is to introduce The Bluebook and basic concepts of legal citation to new law students.

Basic Case Citation

The precise format of a case citation depends on a number of factors, including the jurisdiction, court, and type of case. You should review the rest of this section on citing cases (and the relevant rules in The Bluebook) before trying to format a case citation for the first time. However, the basic format of a case citation is as follows:

Note: In court documents (briefs, motions) and legal memoranda, a full case name is usually italicized or underlined. In academic legal writing (i.e., a law review article), full case names are generally not underlined or italicized. 

Rule & Tables

Rule 10 (and Rule B10 in the Bluepages) governs how to cite cases. It contains extensive instructions on how to format case citations, and Rule 10 also provides guidance on citing briefs, court filings, and transcripts.

In addition to Rule 10, you may need to consult the following tables in order to format the case citation:

  • Table 1: A list of (1) reporters* and reporter abbreviations, (2) courts and court abbreviations, and (3) preferred sources to cite for federal courts and each state's courts
  • Table 6: Abbreviations for terms used in case names (e.g., America[n] = Am.)
  • Table 7: Abbreviations for court names that you would use in the event a court abbreviation is not provided in Table 1
  • Table 10: Abbreviations for geographical terms (e.g., Virginia = Va.)

*What Is a Reporter?*
A reporter is a publication containing the opinions of a particular court or jurisdiction, organized chronologically by date of decision. The opinions of a given court or jurisdiction are often published in more than one reporter.  As you'll see below, for example, opinions of the U.S. Supreme Court are published in three reporters.  If a case is published in a reporter, The Bluebook prescribes which reporter is the preferred one to cite (Table 1). 

For more on reporters, see our Case Law Research Guide or watch Anatomy of a Case, Case Citation, and the Case Law Reporter System in our Case Law Research Tutorial (on the right).

Case Citations Tutorial

Case Law Research Tutorial

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