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Court citation is a standard system used in common law countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Australia to uniquely identify the location of past court cases in special series of books called reporters. This article concerns the common-law legal system, as contrasted with the civil law legal system; for other meanings of the term, within the field of law, see common law (disambiguation). ... In law, a reporter is a series of books which contain court opinions. ...

Contents


United States

The standard case citation format in the United States is:

Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973)

where: Jump to: navigation, search Holding Texas laws criminalizing abortion violated womens Fourteenth Amendment right to choose whether to continue a pregnancy. ... Jump to: navigation, search 1973 was a common year starting on Monday. ...

  • Roe v. Wade is the name of the case,
  • 410 is the volume number of the "reporter" it appears in,
  • U.S. is the abbreviation of the reporter,
  • 113 is the page number where the opinion begins, and
  • 1973 is the year in which the opinion was published.

These numbers are used to find a particular case, both when looking up a case in a Reporter and when accessing it electronically (such as through an Internet search). In law, a reporter is a series of books which contain court opinions. ...


This format also allows different cases with the same parties to be easily differentiated. For example, looking for the U.S. Supreme Court case of Miller v. California would yield four cases, some involving different people named Miller, and all involving different issues. Jump to: navigation, search Seal of the Supreme Court The Supreme Court of the United States, the highest court in the United States of America, is the head of the Judicial Branch of the Federal Government. ... Note: The U.S. Supreme court has decided four cases titled . ...


United States Supreme Court

Cases from the Supreme Court of the United States are officially printed in the United States Reports (U.S.). A citation to the United States Reports looks like this: Jump to: navigation, search Seal of the Supreme Court The Supreme Court of the United States, the highest court in the United States of America, is the head of the Judicial Branch of the Federal Government. ...

There are also two unofficial reporters, the Supreme Court Reporter (S. Ct.) and the Lawyer's Edition (L. Ed.), which are printed by private companies and provide further annotations to the opinions of the Court. Although a citation to the latter two is not required, some attorneys and legal writers prefer to cite all three at once: Jump to: navigation, search Holding Racial segregation in public education violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; separate facilities are “inherently unequal. ... Jump to: navigation, search 1952 was a leap year starting on Tuesday (link will take you to calendar). ... Jump to: navigation, search Miranda v. ... 1966 was a common year starting on Saturday (link goes to calendar) // Events January January 1 - In a coup, Colonel Jean-Bédel Bokassa ousts president David Dacko and takes over the Central African Republic. ...

The "2d" after the L. Ed. signifies the second series of the Lawyers' Edition. United States case reporters are sequentially numbered, but the volume number is never higher than 999. When volume 1,000 is reached, the volume number is reset to 1 and a "2d" is appended after the reporter's abbreviation (American lawyers have a tradition of using "2d" and "3d" rather than "2nd" and "3rd"). Some case reporters are in their third series, and a few are approaching their fourth. Jump to: navigation, search Holding A Connecticut law criminalizing the use of contraceptives violated the right to marital privacy. ... Jump to: navigation, search 1965 was a common year starting on Friday (link goes to calendar). ...


Some very old Supreme Court cases have odd-looking citations, such as Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137 (1803). The "(1 Cranch)" refers to the fact that, before there was an official court reporter, cases were gathered, bound together, and sold by private individuals who had contracted with the Court for the right to do so. In this case, the case was first reported in an edition by William Cranch, who was responsible for publishing Supreme Court reports from 1801 to 1815. Such reports, named for the individual who gathered them, existed from 1790 to 1874. Holding Section 13 of the Judiciary Act of 1789 is unconstitutional to the extent it purports to enlarge the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court beyond that permitted by the Constitution. ... 1803 was a common year starting on Saturday (see link for calendar). ... Categories: People stubs | Judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit | U.S. Supreme Court Reporters of Decisions | 1769 births | 1855 deaths ... 1801 was a common year starting on Thursday (see link for calendar). ... The Battle of New Orleans 1815 was a common year starting on Sunday (see link for calendar). ... 1790 was a common year starting on Friday (see link for calendar). ... Jump to: navigation, search 1874 was a common year starting on Thursday (see link for calendar). ...


See the Supreme Court of the United States Reporter of Decisions for other edition names. Seal of the Supreme Court The Reporter of Decisions of the United States Supreme Court is the official charged with editing and publishing the Courts decisions both when announced and in the bound volumes of the United States Reports. ...


The names of Supreme Court cases, unlike lower federal courts, usually list the name of the appealing party first, followed by the name of the party who was victorious in the lower court.


Lower federal courts

United States court of appeals cases are published in the Federal Reporter (F., F.2d, or F.3d). United States district court cases are published in the Federal Supplement (F. Supp. or F. Supp. 2d). Both are published by the West Publishing Company; they are technically unofficial reporters, but have become widely accepted as the de facto "official" reporters of the lower federal courts because of the absence of a true official reporter. The United States Courts of Appeals (or circuit courts) are the mid-level appellate courts of the United States federal court system. ... The United States district courts are the general trial courts of the United States federal court system. ...


When lower federal court opinions are cited, the citation usually includes the name of the court. This is placed in the parentheses immediately before the year. Some examples:

The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit is a federal court with appellate jurisdiction over the following United States District Courts: District of Delaware District of New Jersey Western, Middle, and Eastern Districts of Pennsylvania District of the United States Virgin Islands The court is based at... The case of Glassroth v. ... The United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama is the Federal district court whose jurisdiction is comprised of the following counties: Autauga, Barbour, Bullock, Butler, Chambers, Chilton, Coffee, Coosa, Covington, Crenshaw, Dale, Elmore, Geneva, Henry, Houston, Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Montgomery, Pike, Russell, and Tallapoosa. ...

State courts

State court decisions are published in several places. Many states have their own state reporter, which publishes decisions of that state's highest court. These reporters have the same abbreviation as that state.

In addition to the official reporters, West Publishing Company publishes several series of "regional reporters" which cover several states each. These include the North Eastern Reporter, Atlantic Reporter, South Eastern Reporter, South Western Reporter, North Western Reporter, and Pacific Reporter. California, Illinois, and New York also each have their own line of West reporters, because of the large volume of cases generated in those states. Some smaller states (like South Dakota) have stopped publishing their own official reporters, and instead have certified the appropriate West regional reporter as their "official" reporter. Holding Defendant could not be held liable for an injury that could not be reasonably foreseen. ... The Court of Appeals is New Yorks highest appellate court, created in 1847. ... Jump to: navigation, search State nickname: The Golden State Other U.S. States Capital Sacramento Largest city Los Angeles Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) Senators Dianne Feinstein (D) Barbara Boxer (D) Official languages English Area 410,000 km² (3rd)  - Land 404,298 km²  - Water 20,047 km² (4. ... Jump to: navigation, search State nickname: Land of Lincoln, The Prairie State Other U.S. States Capital Springfield Largest city Chicago Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) Senators Richard Durbin (D) Barack Obama (D) Official languages English Area 149,998 km² (25th)  - Land 143,968 km²  - Water 6,030 km² (4. ... Jump to: navigation, search State nickname: The Empire State Other U.S. States Capital Albany Largest city New York City Governor George Pataki (R) Senators Charles Schumer (D) Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) Official languages None (English is de facto) Area 141,205 km² (27th)  - Land 122,409 km²  - Water 18... State nickname: The Mount Rushmore State Other U.S. States Capital Pierre Largest city Sioux Falls Governor Mike Rounds (R) Senators Tim Johnson (D) John Thune (R) Official languages English Area 199,905 km² (17th)  - Land 196,735 km²  - Water 3,173 km² (1. ...


Here are some examples of how to cite West reporters:

  • Jackson v. Commonwealth, 583 S.E.2d 780 (Va. Ct. App. 2003) - a case in the Virginia Court of Appeals (an intermediate appellate court) published in the South Eastern Reporter
  • Foxworth v. Maddox, 137 So. 161 (Fla. 1931) - a case in the Florida Supreme Court published in the Southern Reporter
  • People v. Brown, 282 N.Y.S.2d 497 (1967) - a case in the New York Court of Appeals (New York's highest court) published in the New York Supplement. The case also appears in West's regional reporter: People v. Brown, 229 N.E.2d 192 (N.Y. 1967).

Abbreviations for lower courts vary by state, as each state has its own system of trial courts and intermediate appellate courts. The Florida Supreme Court is the highest court in the State of Florida. ... The Court of Appeals is New Yorks highest appellate court, created in 1847. ...


When a case appears in both an official reporter and a regional reporter, either citation can be used. Many lawyers prefer to include both citations. Many state courts require that both citations be used when citing cases from any court in that state's system (a practice technically known as "parallel citations").


Some states, notably California and New York, have their own citation systems which differ significantly from the various federal and national standards. Citations in California style put the year between the names of the parties and the reference to the case reporter. Citations in New York style wrap the year in brackets instead of parentheses. Both New York and California wrap an entire citation in parentheses when it is used as a stand-alone sentence. New York puts the terminating period outside the parentheses, but California puts it inside. New York wraps just the reporter and page references in parentheses when the citation is used as a clause. Jump to: navigation, search State nickname: The Golden State Other U.S. States Capital Sacramento Largest city Los Angeles Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) Senators Dianne Feinstein (D) Barbara Boxer (D) Official languages English Area 410,000 km² (3rd)  - Land 404,298 km²  - Water 20,047 km² (4. ... Jump to: navigation, search State nickname: The Empire State Other U.S. States Capital Albany Largest city New York City Governor George Pataki (R) Senators Charles Schumer (D) Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) Official languages None (English is de facto) Area 141,205 km² (27th)  - Land 122,409 km²  - Water 18...


Either way, both state styles differ from the national/Bluebook style of simply dropping in the citation as a separate sentence without further adornment. Both systems use less punctuation and spacing in their reporter abbreviations.


For example, assuming that it is being placed as a stand-alone sentence, the Brown case above would be cited (using the official reporter) to a New York court as:

  • (People v. Brown, 20 NY2d 238 [1967]).

And, again, as a stand-alone sentence, the famous Greenman product liability case would be cited to a California court as: Product liability encompasses a number of legal claims that allow an injured party to recover financial compensation from the manufacturer or seller of a product. ...

  • (Greenman v. Yuba Power Products, Inc. (1963) 59 Cal.2d 57.) [1]

Like the United States Supreme Court, some very old state case citations include an abbreviation of the name of the private publisher who collected the cases. Most states gave up this practice in the mid- to late-1800s, but Delaware persisted until 1920. Jump to: navigation, search Events and Trends Beginning of the Napoleonic Wars (1803 - 1815). ... Jump to: navigation, search State nickname: The First State Other U.S. States Capital Dover Largest city Wilmington Governor Ruth Ann Minner (D) Senators Joe Biden (D) Thomas Carper (D) Official languages None Area 6,452 km² (49th)  - Land 5,068 km²  - Water 1,387 km² (21. ... Jump to: navigation, search 1920 is a leap year starting on Thursday (link will take you to calendar) // Events January January 7 - Forces of Russian White admiral Kolchak surrender in Krasnoyarsk. ...


Unpublished decisions

A growing number of court decisions are not published in case reporters. This is because in many states, especially California, the legislature has failed to expand the judiciary to keep up with population growth (for various political and fiscal reasons). For example, only 7% of the opinions of the California intermediate courts (the Courts of Appeal) are published each year.


To deal with their crushing caseloads, many judges prefer to write shorter-than-normal opinions that dispose of the frivolous issues in the case in a sentence or two. They avoid publishing such abbreviated opinions, however, so as to not risk creating bad precedents. Jump to: navigation, search Precedent, sometimes authority, is the legal principle or rule created by a court which guides judges in subsequent cases with similar issues or facts. ...


Attorneys have several options in citing "unpublished" decisions:

  • For recently-decided cases which will eventually be published, the docket number from the court can be used as a citation.
  • Cases which are intentionally left officially unpublished are nonetheless often "published" on computer services, such as LexisNexis and Westlaw. These services have their own citation formats based on serial numbers (issued sequentially from 1 as documents are added to the database each year). A Westlaw citation looks like this: Fuqua Homes, Inc. v. Beattie, No. 03-3587, 2004 WL 2495842 (8th Cir. November 8, 2004).

Some court systems—such as the California state court system and the federal Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit—forbid attorneys to cite unpublished cases as precedent. Since 2004, federal judges have been debating whether the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure should be amended so that unpublished cases in all circuits can be cited as precedent. LexisNexis is a popular searchable archive of content from newspapers, magazines, legal documents and other printed sources. ... Westlaw is one of two major fee-based online legal research systems, providing access to state and federal statutes, case law materials, public records, and other legal resources. ... Jump to: navigation, search 2004 (MMIV) was a leap year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar. ... The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) govern civil procedure in the United States district courts, or more simply, court procedures for civil suits. ...


Vendor neutral citations

With the rise of the web, many courts placed new cases on websites. Some were published while others never lost their "unpublished" status. The major legal citation systems required cites to the officially published page numbers, in which publishers such as West publishing claimed a copyright interest. (In view of the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Feist Publications v. Rural Telephone Service, that the mere alphabetical listing of telephone subscribers was an inadequate amount of effort to be valid to obtain copyright, the claim of copyright on page numbering of court decisions is probably not valid.) Feist Publications, Inc. ...


A vendor neutral citation movement led to provisions being made for citations to web-based cases and other legal materials. A few courts modified their rules to specifically take into account cases "published" on the web.


Pinpoint citations

In practice, most lawyers go one step farther, once they have developed the correct citation for a case using the rules discussed above. Most court opinions contain holdings on multiple issues, so lawyers need to cite to the page that contains the specific holding they wish to invoke in their own case. Such citations are known as pinpoint citations, or "pin cites" for short.


For example, in Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the word "person" as used in the Fourteenth Amendment does not include the unborn. A full pin cite to Roe for the page with that holding would be as follows:

And a parallel cite to all three U.S. Supreme Court reporters, combined with pin cites for all three, would produce: Jump to: navigation, search Holding Texas laws criminalizing abortion violated womens Fourteenth Amendment right to choose whether to continue a pregnancy. ... Jump to: navigation, search 1973 was a common year starting on Monday. ...

  • Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 158, 93 S. Ct. 705, 729, 35 L. Ed. 2d 147, 180 (1973).

But in its opinions, the Court usually provides a direct pin cite only to the official reporter, as follows: Jump to: navigation, search Holding Texas laws criminalizing abortion violated womens Fourteenth Amendment right to choose whether to continue a pregnancy. ... Jump to: navigation, search 1973 was a common year starting on Monday. ...

Even then, such citations are still quite lengthy, and obviously look quite mysterious and intimidating to laypersons when they try to read court opinions. Since the 1980s, there has been an ongoing debate among American judges as to whether they should relegate such lengthy citations to footnotes to improve the readability of their opinions. Most judges do relegate some citations to footnotes, but Justice Stephen Breyer is famous for never, ever using footnotes in his opinions. Jump to: navigation, search Holding Texas laws criminalizing abortion violated womens Fourteenth Amendment right to choose whether to continue a pregnancy. ... Jump to: navigation, search 1973 was a common year starting on Monday. ... Justice Stephen Breyer Justice Stephen Gerald Breyer (born August 15, 1938) has been an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court since 1994. ...


Types of Citations

There are two types of citations: proprietary and public domain citations. There are many citation guides; the most commonly acknowledged is called the Bluebook, published by students at several eminent law schools, led by Harvard Law School. The ALWD Citation Manual is a recent (as of 2004) publication that is quickly winning supporters. Public domain citations are those which usually refer to the official reporters and not some kind of publication service such as Westlaw or LexisNexis or some particular legal journal or specialization specific reporter. The public domain comprises the body of all creative works and other knowledge—writing, artwork, music, science, inventions, and others—in which no person or organization has any proprietary interest. ... The Bluebook: a Uniform System of Citation is a book and a widely used legal citation system for the U.S. compiled by the Harvard Law Review Association along with the Columbia Law Review, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, and the Yale Law Journal. ... Jump to: navigation, search A law school is an institution where future lawyers obtain legal degrees. ... Harvard Law School (HLS) is one of the professional graduate schools of Harvard University. ... Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... 2004 is a leap year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Westlaw is one of two major fee-based online legal research systems, providing access to state and federal statutes, case law materials, public records, and other legal resources. ... LexisNexis is a popular searchable archive of content from newspapers, magazines, legal documents and other printed sources. ...


States with their own unique style for court documents and case opinions also publish their own style guides which include information on their citation rules.


United Kingdom

The standard case citation format in the United Kingdom is:

Style of cause (year of decision), [year of reporter] volume reporter (series) page jurisdiction/court
Donoghue v Stevenson, [1932] A.C. 562 (H.L.).
R v Dudley and Stephens, (1884) 14 Q.B.D. 273.

In the U.K. as with most other Commonwealth countries, the abbreviation "R" for rex (king) or regina (queen), is used for cases in which the state is a party (typically criminal cases or judicial review cases). Square brackets "[]" are used when the year is essential to locating the report (e.g. the official law reports either - as with Donoghue v Stevenson, above - do not have volume numbers or, if there are multiple volumes in a single year), they are numbered 1, 2, etc. Round brackets "()" are used when the year is not essential but is useful for information purposes, e.g. in reports which have a cumulative volume number such as R v Dudley and Stevens, above. Jump to: navigation, search Judicial review is the power of a court to review a law or an official act of a government employee or agent for constitutionality or for the violation of basic principles of justice. ...


Reporters

Before 1865, English courts used a large number of privately-printed reporters, and cases were cited based on which reporter they appeared in. (This system was also used in the United States and other common law jurisdictions during that period). Jump to: navigation, search 1865 is a common year starting on Sunday. ...


In 1865, many English cases were reprinted in a set of volumes called English Reports, abbreviated E.R. Between 1865 and 1875, decisions were published in a single series of law reports simply known as the "Law Reports" (L.R). Jump to: navigation, search 1865 is a common year starting on Sunday. ... 1875 was a common year starting on Friday (see link for calendar). ...


Since 1875 the official law reports have been split into a number of different series, the current series are the Appeal Cases (A.C.), Chancery (Ch.), Family (Fam.) and Queen's Bench (Q.B.) (or King's Bench—K.B.—depending on the monarch of the time). These 4 series are cited in preference to all others in court. There are 2 main unofficial law reports which report all areas of law, the Weekly Law Reports (W.L.R.) and the All England Reports (All E.R.). In addition there are a number of unofficial specialist law reports which focus on a particular area, e.g. the Entertainment and Media Law Reports (E.M.L.R.) or the Criminal Appeal Reports (Cr. App. R.). See the table below for a list of the most common current and past law reports.

Abbreviation Reporter years
A.C. Appeal Cases (L.R.) 1890 -
All E.R. All England Reports 1936 -
Ch. Chancery (L.R.) 1891 -
Ch. App. Chancery Division (L.R.) 1865 - 1874
Ch. D. Chancery Division (L.R.) 1875 - 1890
Ex. D. Exchequer Division (L.R.) 1875 - 1890
Q.B.D. Queen's Bench Division (L.R.) 1875 - 1890
K.B. King's Bench 1901 - 1951
Q.B. Queen's Bench (L.R.) 1952 -
W.L.R. Weekly Law Reports 1953 -

Canada

The standard case citation format in Canada is:

Style of cause (year of decision), [year of reporter] volume reporter (series) page jurisdiction/court
R. v. Big M Drug Mart Ltd. [1985] 1 S.C.R. 295
R. v. Oakes, [1986] 1 S.C.R. 103.
Re Canada Trust Co. and O.H.R.C. (1990), 69 D.L.R. (4th) 321 (Ont. C.A.).

The Style of Cause is italicized as in all other countries and the party names are separated by "v." (english) or "c." (french). Prior to 1984 the appellant party would always be named first. However, since then case names do not switch order when the case is appealed. In the case of R. v. ... R. v. ...


Undisclosed parties to a case are represented by initials (eg. R. v. R.D.S.). Criminal cases are prosecuted by the Crown which is always represented by "R.". Constitutional references are always entitled "Reference Re" followed by the subject title. Jump to: navigation, search The case of R. v. ... A Reference Question in Canada is a submission by the federal or a provincial government to the Supreme Court of Canada or the provinces respective Court of Appeal in which the submitting government would like the court to answer a legal question regarding the Constitution Acts, the constitutionality of...


Usually either the year of the decision or the year of the reporter is cited, but not usually both. Only if they are different years can they both be cited at the same time. If they are the same, one should always use the reporter year.


Reporters

Abbreviation Reporter years
A.R. Alberta Reports 1976 -
D.L.R. (4th) Dominion Law Reports 1984 -
F.C. Federal Court Reports 1971 -
N.B.R. (2d) New Brunswick Reports 1969 -
N.S.R. (2d) Nova Scotia Reports 1969 -
O.R. (3d) Ontario Reports 1986 -
S.C.R. Supreme Court Reports 1970 -

Neutral Citation

In 1999 the Canadian Judicial Council adopted a neutral citation standard for case law. The format provides a naming system that does not depend on the publication of the case a law report. Jump to: navigation, search 1999 is a common year starting on Friday Anno Domini (or the Current Era), and was designated the International Year of Older Persons by the United Nations. ... The Canadian Judicial Council is the regulating body for Canadian judges composed mostly of chief justices and associate chief justices of Canadas superior courts. ...


The standard format look like this:

Year of decision Court identifier Ordinal number
2000 SCC 1

There is a unique court identifier code for most courts. There are a few courts in Quebec and Ontario that have yet to adopt the system. A list of the court identifiers include:

Court Identifier Court from year
SCC Supreme Court of Canada 2000
FCT Federal Court of Canada - Trial Division 2001
FCA Federal Court of Canada - Appeal Division 2001
TCC Tax Court of Canada 2003

Reference

  • Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation, 5th edition (McGill Law Journal) ISBN 0-459-24042-0, ISBN 0-459-24068-4
  • Canadian Citation Committee Neutral Citation Standard for Case Law

Australia

The standard case citation format in Australia is:

Style of cause (year of decision) [year of reporter] volume reporter (series) page jurisdiction/court
Mabo v State of Queensland [No. 2] (1992) 175 CLR 1. FC

Reporters

Abbreviation Reporter Years
ALR Australian Law Reports 1983 -
CLR Commonwealth Law Reports 1903 -

Reference

  • Australian Guide to Legal Citation

See also

As in most countries, Germany has a standard way of citing its legal codes and case law; an essentially identical system of citation is also used in Austria. ... Jump to: navigation, search The tone of this article is inappropriate for an encyclopedia. ...

External links


  Results from FactBites:
 
Court citation - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (2447 words)
Court citation is a standard system used in common law countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia to uniquely identify the location of past court cases in special series of books called reporters.
Many state courts require that both citations be used when citing cases from any court in that state's system (a practice technically known as "parallel citations").
Public domain citations are those which usually refer to the official reporters and not some kind of publication service such as Westlaw or LexisNexis or some particular legal journal or specialization specific reporter.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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