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Posted: September 4th, 2023

Formatting Court Case Citations

Court case notation rules – Formatting Court Case Citations: Ensuring Proper Documentation
When conducting legal research and writing on court cases, properly citing cases using the correct format is essential. Court case citations, also known as case citations, provide readers with important details about a referenced case such as the parties involved, court of decision, and date of ruling. This allows readers to easily locate the full text of the cited case if desired. There are various citation formats used depending on jurisdiction and type of document, but all aim to capture key case information in a standardized, easy to understand manner.
In the United States, the most commonly used citation formats are the Bluebook and ALWD (Association of Legal Writing Directors) styles. The Bluebook, formally called the Harvard Law Review Citation Manual, is considered the gold standard for legal citations. It is often required for legal briefs, memos, and articles submitted to law journals and law schools. However, for academic legal writing such as law review articles, the ALWD style has gained popularity in recent years due to its clearer guidelines. Both styles provide rules for citing cases from federal and state courts.
Regardless of the specific format, there are some universal elements included in case citations. First is the case name, with the plaintiff/appellant listed first followed by “v.” or “vs.” and then the defendant/appellee. For example, in Roe v. Wade, Roe was the plaintiff and Wade was the defendant. Abbreviations may be used such as “Co.” for company and “Inc.” for incorporated. Next comes the volume number of the law reporter or legal journal where the case is published, followed by the specific page number(s) where the case begins.
Additional elements like the court abbreviation and year are also common. For example, a U.S. Supreme Court decision could be cited as Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), indicating the case is published in volume 410 of the U.S. Reports starting on page 113 and was decided in 1973. State court decisions will include the state abbreviation, such as Roe v. Wade, 123 Cal. Rptr. 2d 688 (Cal. Ct. App. 2002). In legal briefs and memos, case names are typically underlined or italicized, while academic writing uses normal font.
Proper case citations allow readers to efficiently validate legal arguments and findings by referring to primary sources. As the body of case law continues growing rapidly, standardized formats are crucial for accurately pinpointing relevant precedents. While citation styles may seem trivial, correctly citing authorities demonstrates an attorney’s attention to detail and understanding of legal research methodology. Students should master proper citation from the start of their legal education to develop strong research, analysis, and writing skills for practice. Overall, following the prescribed rules ensures court case citations effectively support legal analysis and reasoning.
In conclusion, properly citing court cases using the correct format is an essential legal research skill. Standardized citation formats provide key details about a referenced case in an organized, easy to understand manner. Whether for briefs, memos, or academic writing, attorneys and law students should take care to cite cases accurately according to the prescribed style. This allows readers to efficiently locate cited authorities and validate legal arguments presented. With practice, proper case citation will become second nature for effective legal research, analysis, and communication.
Cover, Robert M. “For James Wm. Moore: Some Reflections on a Reading of the Rules.” The Yale Law Journal 84.4 (1975): 718-740.
Reynolds, William L., and William M. Richman. “The Non-Precedential Precedent-Limited Publication and No-Citation Rules in the United States Courts of Appeals.” Colum. L. Rev. 78 (1978): 1167.
Flanders, Steven. “Local Rules in Federal District Courts: Usurpation, Legislation, or Information.” Loy. LAL Rev. 14 (1980): 213.
Williams, Joseph M. “No-Citation Rules Under Siege: Bayless Manning Lecture.” South Texas Law Review 47 (2005): 587-600.

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