Georgetown Law
Georgetown Law Library

Bluebook Guide

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

Basic Statutory Citation

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


Rule and Tables

Rule 12 (and Rule B12 in the Bluepages) governs how to cite statutes.  It contains extensive instructions on how to format statutory citations, and it also provides guidance on citing municipal ordinances, rules of evidence and procedure, and uniform and model laws.

In addition to Rule 12, you will need to consult Table 1 in order to format a citation to a statute.  Table 1 provides a list of statutory codes and abbreviations for federal statutes and state statutes as well as the preferred statutory code to cite for federal statutes and each state's statutes.

What Is a Statutory Code?

A statutory code is compilation of laws enacted by a legislative body that are currently in force and organized by subject.  Statutory codes exist in order to make it easier for individuals to find what the current law is on a given topic, such as criminal law. There is a statutory code containing federal statutes (enacted by Congress) and a statutory code for each state's statutes (enacted by the state legislature).  Similar to case reporters, there are official codes and unofficial codes.

In general, The Bluebook requires that you cite to the current official statutory code when you cite a statute currently in force.  Rule 12 explains situations in which you would cite other sources, including unofficial codes.

For more information on statutory codes and the publication of statutes, watch What Statutes Are and Where They Are Published in our Statutory Research Tutorial (on the right).

Statutory Citations Tutorial

Running time: 2:56 minutes

Created/updated: April 2019
Last reviewed: July 2020 - current through the 21st edition with the caveat that it is no longer necessary to include a date in citations to the current U.S. Code

Statutory Research Tutorial

Running time: 4:02 minutes

Created/updated: January 2019
Last reviewed: January 2019

When you begin a video and hover your cursor over the video window, you are offered several options:

  1. Closed captioning
  2. Search (searches the captions, can take you directly to the point in the video where a specific word is mentioned)
  3. Playback speed (faster or slower)
  4. Full screen mode