Guide to Legal Abbreviations and Citations
- Case Citations and Abbreviations
- Citations and Abbreviations for Statutes and Regulations
- Abbreviations for Commonly Cited Secondary Sources
This guide is intended to provide basic information on how to cite to U.S.legal sources as well as help you to interpret citations you come across in your legal research. The citation formats presented in this guide follow The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation, 18th ed. [Closed Reserve, KF246 .U58 2004], which is one of the most widely recognized legal citation manuals in the United States. For help in understanding the citation rules in The Bluebook, consult one or both of the following sources:
- Dworsky, Alan L. User's Guide to the Bluebook, Rev.ed. Buffalo: William S.Hein, 2006 [Ready Reference, KF245 .D85 2005].
- Prince, Mary M. Prince's Bieber Dictionary of Legal Citations: A Reference Guide for Attorneys, Legal Secretaries, Paralegals, and Law Students. 7th ed. Buffalo: William S.Hein, 2001 [Ready Reference, KF245 .B45 2006].
An alternative legal citation manual is the ALWD Citation Manual: A Professional System of Citation [Closed Reserve, KF245 .A45 2006], developed by the Association of Legal Writing Directors. While the ALWD manual is not as widely used as The Bluebook, its popularity has grown in recent years, and it is used in a number of law school legal writing programs throughout the United States.
There is also a citation manual specifically geared to California called the California Style Manual: A Handbook of Legal Style for California Courts and Lawyers, 4th ed. [Ready Reference and Closed Reserve, KFC75 .W5 2000]. This manual should be used if you are filing a document in a California state court.
Finally, if you come across a legal abbreviation and it is not listed in this guide, there are two additional sources that might be helpful to you:
- Prince, Mary M. Bieber's Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations: A Reference Guide for Attorneys, Legal Secretaries, Paralegals, and Law Students. 5th ed. Buffalo: William S.Hein, 2001 [Ready Reference, KF246 .B46 2001].
- Raistrick, Donald. Index to Legal Citations and Abbreviations. 2d ed. London: Bowker-Saur, 1993 [Ready Reference, KD400 .R24 1993]. (This book focuses more on British and other foreign/international abbreviations.)
2. Case Citations and Abbreviations
The essential elements of a case citation are the case name, the abbreviation of the reporter in which the case was published, the volume and initial page number to enable you to find the case in the reporter, and the year of the case. The volume number is placed before the reporter abbreviation and the page number is placed after the abbreviation. Sometimes, an abbreviation for the court that decided the case and/or the state where the case was decided is/are included as well.
- Grey v. Campbell Soup Co., 650 F. Supp. 1166 (C.D. Cal. 1986)
This is a citation to a federal District Court case published in the Federal Supplement. The "C.D. Cal." abbreviation refers to the Central District Court of California, which decided this case.
If a case is published in more than one reporter, additional reporter references may also be included to enable you to find the case in the other reporter(s). These additional references are sometimes referred to as parallel citations.
- Barrows v. Jackson, 346 U.S. 249, 73 S. Ct. 1031, 97 L. Ed. 1586 (1953)
This is a citation to a United States Supreme Court case, which was published in three different reporters.
- Jones v. Kelly, 208 Cal. 251, 280 P. 942 (1929)
This is a citation to a California Supreme Court case, which was published in two different reporters.
Case reporters are published in series, which are designated by a series number (2d, 3d, 4th, etc.). Because each reporter series begins with volume 1, it is important to include the correct series designation in your citation if your case appears in a second, third, fourth, or later series.
- Universal Pictures Co. v. Harold Lloyd Corp., 162 F.2d 354 (9th Cir. 1947)
This is a citation to a United States Court of Appeals case, published in volume 162 of the second series of Federal Reporter. The "9th Cir." abbreviation refers to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which decided this case.
- Harris v. Atlantic Richfield Co., 14 Cal. App. 4th 70, 17 Cal. Rptr. 2d 649 (1993)
This is a citation to a California Court of Appeal case, published in volume 14 of the fourth series of California Appellate Reports as well as in volume 17 of the second series of California Reporter.
Below are lists of standard abbreviations for the major federal and California case reporters as well as the U.S. regional reporters that cover state cases from different regions of the country. The lists indicate how many series have been published for each reporter and which courts or states are covered by each reporter.
|Reporter Abbreviation(s)||Name of Reporter||Court(s) Covered|
|F., F.2d, F.3d||Federal Reporter (first, second and third series)||United States Courts of Appeals|
|F. Supp., F. Supp. 2d||Federal Supplement (first and second series)||United States District Courts|
|F.R.D.||Federal Rules Decisions||United States District Courts|
|L. Ed., L. Ed. 2d||U.S. Supreme Court Reports, Lawyers' Edition (first and second series)||United States Supreme Court|
|S. Ct.||Supreme Court Reporter||United States Supreme Court|
|U.S.||United States Reports||United States Supreme Court|
|Reporter Abbreviations||Name of Reporter||Court(s) Covered|
|Cal., Cal. 2d, Cal. 3d, Cal. 4th||California Reports (first, second, third, and fourth series)||California Supreme Court|
|Cal. App., Cal. App. 2d, Cal. App. 3d, Cal. App. 4th||California Appellate Reports (first, second, third and fourth series)||California Courts of Appeal|
|Cal. Rptr., Cal. Rptr. 2d||California Reporter (first and second series)||California Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal|
|Reporter Abbreviation(s)||Name of Reporter||States Covered|
|A., A.2d||Atlantic Reporter (first and second series)||CT, DC, DE, MD, NJ, NH, ME, PA, RI, VT|
|N.E., N.E.2d||North Eastern Reporter (first and second series)||IL, IN, MA, NY, OH|
|N.W., N.W.2d||North Western Reporter (first and second series)||IA, MN, MI, ND, NK, SD, WI|
|P., P.2d, P.3d||Pacific Reporter (first, second, and third series)||AZ, AK, CA, CO, HI, ID, KS, MT, NM, NV, OK, OR, UT, WA, WY|
|S.E., S.E.2d||South Eastern Reporter (first and second series)||GA, NC, SC, VA, WV|
|So., So. 2d||Southern Reporter (first and second series)||AL, FL, LA, MS|
|S.W., S.W.2d, S.W.3d||South Western Reporter (first, second, and third series)||AR, KY, MO, TN, TX|
3. Citations and Abbreviations for Statutes and Regulations
The best place to look up a statute or regulation is usually in a code. Codes are organized by subject and are updated on a fairly regular basis. Each code has its own organizational structure, which determines how you cite to a particular code provision.
Federal statutory and regulatory codes are divided into titles. Each code title is numbered and covers a broad area of law (e.g., title 11 of the federal statutory code covers bankruptcy law). Titles are further divided into code sections, which are also numbered. Both the title number and section number are included in a federal code citation (along with the abbreviation for the particular version of the code being cited to). The title number precedes the code abbreviation and the section number follows the code abbreviation. The § symbol is always placed before the actual section number.
For example, 29 U.S.C. § 1001 is a citation to section 1001 of title 29 of the official version of the federal statutory code (called the United States Code). The citation 42 C.F.R. § 59.1 refers to section 59.1 of title 42 of the official version of the federal regulatory code (called the Code of Federal Regulations).
California regulatory code sections are cited in the same way as federal code citations. California statutory code sections are cited a little differently however, since the California statutory code compilation is really a series of individual codes instead of one code divided into different titles. Therefore, California statutory code citations merely include an abbreviation for the specific code followed by the number of the section being cited to (e.g., Cal. Civ. Code § 4100 is a citation to section 4100 of the California Civil Code).
Below are standard abbreviations for the major federal and California statutory and regulatory sources. For additional information on these sources, consult the USC Law Library guides Finding Federal Statutes, Regulations, and Related Cases and Finding California Statutes, Regulations, and Related Cases. Additional information on how to cite to statutory and regulatory materials can also be found in the citation manuals listed at the beginning of this guide.
|Abbreviation||Name of Source|
|Pub. L.or P.L.||Public Law|
|Stat.||Statutes at Large|
|U.S.C.||United States Code (official version of the federal statutory code)|
|U.S.C.A.||United States Code Annotated (published by West)|
|U.S.C.S.||United States Code Service (published by LexisNexis)|
|C.F.R.||Code of Federal Regulations|
|Cal. Code Regs. or C.C.R.||California Code of Regulations|
4. Abbreviations for Commonly Cited Secondary Sources
In the course of your legal research, you will often come across references to secondary sources, which are often useful in understanding the law and helping you to find relevant primary sources (i.e., cases, statutes, and regulations). Listed below are abbreviations for some of the more commonly cited types of secondary sources that you are most likely to come across in your legal research. For more information on how these sources can be useful and how to access them, consult the USC Law Library guide Starting Points to Begin Your Legal Research.
|Abbreviation||Name of Secondary Source|
|A.L.R., A.L.R.2d, A.L.R.3d, A.L.R.4th, A.L.R.5th, A.L.R.6th||American Law Reports (first through sixth series)|
|A.L.R. Fed.||American Law Reports (federal series)|
|Am. Jur. 2d||American Jurisprudence, 2d series (current edition)|
|C.J.S.||Corpus Juris Secundum|
|Cal. Jur. 3d||California Jurisprudence, 3d series (current edition)|
|L. Rev. (e.g., So. Cal. L. Rev.)||Law Review (e.g., Southern California Law Review)|
|L.J. (e.g., Yale L.J.)||Law Journal (e.g., Yale Law Journal)|