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POSC 446 International Organizations and Law (Williams): How to Read a Legal Citation

US Federal and State Case Citations

A citation (or cite) in legal terminology is a reference to a specific legal source, such as a constitution, a statute, a reported case, a treatise, or a law review article.  A standard citation includes first the volume number, then the title of the source, (usually abbreviated) and lastly, a page or section number.

Case citations designate the volume number of the reporter in which the case appears, the name of the reporter, the page on which the case begins, and the year the decision was rendered.  Thus, each citation is unique.  Cases, or judicial opinions, can be published by more than one publisher.  If this occurs, the case name may be followed by one or more “parallel citations.”  The official reporter is the one with whose publisher the court has contracted to publish the reports; any other citation is called “unofficial.”  (Sometimes a case will have only an unofficial citation, such as in the Federal Reporter; then the “unofficial” cite will be listed alone.)  The text of the opinions will be the same in the official or unofficial sources, but the unofficial may contain additional editorial features which differ from the official.

Federal cases are cited in the same format as California cases.  For United States Supreme Court cases, the official reports, United States Reports, (abbreviated “US”) are published by the U.S. Government.  There are two parallel citations for Supreme Court cases: those published by West in the Supreme Court Reporter are abbreviated “S.Ct.”; those published by LexisNexis, the United States Supreme Court Reports, Lawyers’ Edition, are abbreviated “L.Ed.” or “L.Ed. 2d”  Court of Appeals cases, published only in West’s Federal Reporter, are abbreviated “F.,” “F. 2d.” or “F. 3d.”  Federal District Court cases are published only in West’s Federal Supplement, abbreviated “F. Supp.” or “F. Supp. 2d” 


Adapted from UCLA Law Library's guide http://libguides.law.ucla.edu/citations

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Code and Case Reporter Abbreviations

Case Reporter Abbreviations

US Supreme Court

Abbreviation Publication
U.S. United States Reports
S. Ct. United States Supreme Court Reporter
L. Ed. US Supreme Court Reports, Lawyer's Edition


US Appellate Courts

Abbreviation Publication
F. Federal Reporter
F. 2d. Federal Reporter 2nd Series
F. 3d. Federal Reporter 3rd Series


US District Courts

Abbreviation Publication
F. Supp. Federal Supplement
F. Supp. 2d. Federal Supplement 2nd Series
F. Supp. 3d. Federal Supplement 3rd Series


Code Abbreviations

Federal Statutes



Abbreviation Publication
U.S.C. United States Code
U.S.C.A. United States Code Annotated
U.S.C.S. United States Code Service


http://libguides.colby.edu/LW

Examples

Boston College Law Library "Reading Legal Citations" pdf