The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation is a well-known legal citation style guide in the US. And if you’re studying US law, you’ll almost certainly encounter Bluebook-style case citations at some point.
In this post, we provide an ‘anatomy’ of a Bluebook case citation to help you reference legal sources clearly and correctly in your written work.
Basic Format for Case Citations
The basic citation format for case citations in Bluebook referencing includes four elements: the parties’ names, the case citation, the court, and the year of the ruling. This is presented using the following format:
Year of Decision
DeBoer v. Snyder,
973 F. Supp. 2d 757
You then give citations in the main body of your text or in a footnote immediately following the relevant passage (accompanied by a signal).
In the rest of this post, we’ll look more closely at each of the above elements.
The parties’ names are the title of the case, so you should italicise them and separate them from the rest of the citation with a comma. The case name should also be shortened using .
The case citation usually includes a volume number for where the case was published, the abbreviated reporter identification and the first page of the case. In DeBoer v. Snyder, the case citation can be broken down as follows:
F. Supp. 2d
This indicates that the case is reported in volume 973 of the Federal Supplement, Second Series, starting on page 757. Alternatively, if available, you can give a medium-neutral citation instead.
Court and Year
The ruling court and year of decision should be included in parentheses after the case citation. The name of the court is abbreviated here (e.g. ‘Eastern District Michigan’ becomes just ‘E.D. Mich’). If you’re using a medium-neutral citation or a case citation that already mentions the ruling court and/or year of decision, you don’t have to duplicate it here.
Further to the above, Bluebook referencing sometimes uses a second set of parentheticals after the court and year. Usually, this is for either substantive information or detail regarding the weight of the authority:
1. Substantive Information
This is information provided to clarify the relevance of a citation, either via a direct quotation of the passage in question or a brief explanation. Explanatory phrases should begin with an ‘-ing’ verb.
2. Weight of Authority
This concerns the precedential value of the cited case, including factors such as the relevance of the authority (e.g. whether the ruling was en banc, per curiam, etc.) or other cases cited to support the decision.
Australian Legal Referencing
While Bluebook referencing in common in the US, the main legal citation style in Australia is AGLC. Short for the Australian Guide to Legal Citation, this system is the one to use if you’re writing about Australian law.
And if you’d like anyone to check the referencing in a piece of legal writing, Proofed has experts available in a range of legal citation styles.