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Legal Research: An Overview: Citations

Citation to Relevant Authorities Is a Must!

In legal writing you are expected to support your arguments with authority, and you must include appropriate citations for all the authority on which you are relying. The Bluebook establishes the most commonly used format for legal citations. The California Style Manual provides an alternative citation format for state court. The California Rules of Court bind attorneys practicing in California state court and include a few instructions regarding citations. 


Loyola Law School Los Angeles Library -- Bluebooking and Legal Citation Guide. This user-friendly and detailed guide provides information on creating Bluebook and California Style Manual citations.

Georgetown Law Library -- Bluebook Guide. This guide serves as a good introduction to The Bluebook and basic concepts of legal citation.

Introduction to Basic Legal Citation. Cornell Law Professor Peter W. Martin offers this online guide for basic legal citation. See also Professor Martin's blog, Citing Legally.  

Quick Guide. Provided by The Bluebook, the Quick Style Guide answers common citation format questions.

The Bluebook and California Citation Rules

The Bluebook is the most ubiquitous citation style manual for legal documents within the United States. The federal courts; many, if not most, state courts; and law journals require that citations be in Bluebook format. The 21st edition is the most recent edition of the Bluebook and the edition that you should use.

The Bluebook establishes separate citation formats for citations in legal documents, such as court filings, and citations in law review footnotes.  Accordingly, when crafting citations, it is important to rely on the correct Bluebook rules for the type of document you are writing.

When working with the Bluebook, the following sections may be particularly useful:

  • Inside front and back covers. The inside front and back covers are "Quick Reference" guides providing numerous citation examples.  The front inside cover provides citation examples when drafting law review footnotes, and the back inside cover provides examples for citations in court documents and legal memoranda.

  • Outside back cover. The outside back cover identifies the citation rules and the page within the Bluebook where the discussion of each rule starts.

  • Bluepages. The Bluebook provides the rules for citing authority in both academic publications (i.e. law reviews) and court documents. While the bulk of the Bluebook (the Whitepages) focuses on the former, there are specific rules for citations in court documents which are collected and highlighted near the front of the book in a section called the “Bluepages." You may refer to the Whitepages to supplement a corresponding Bluepages rule. 

  • Index. The index at the end of the Bluebook can be used to look up specific sources and citation elements.

  • Basic Citation Forms. Tables with examples of the most commonly used citation forms for each type of document being cited are offered for cases (R10); statutes (R12); legislative materials (R13); administrative and executive materials (R14); periodical materials (R16); unpublished and forthcoming sources (R17); the internet, electronic media, and other nonprint resources (R18); and international materials (R2).

  • Table 1 (T1). T1 provides the abbreviations and citation conventions for each jurisdiction within the United States -- federal and state.

  • Tables 6 - 16. Tables 6 through 16 provide the required abbreviation conventions. Note that T2: Foreign Jurisdictions, is now available at no cost online.

For more information, see the Law Library's guide to Cite Checking Resources: Bluebooking.

Attorneys practicing in California state court are bound by the California Rules of Court. There are a few CRC that apply to citations.  

Rule 1.200 addresses the style manuals, and gives attorneys the option of using either: 

  • the California Style Manual, or
  • the Bluebook citation style. 

Rule 3.1113(c) addresses case citations specifically and instructs: “A case citation must include the official report volume and page number and year of decision. The court must not require any other form of citation.” Here are a few things to note about Rule 3.1113:

  • It addresses the format of motion papers filed in civil courts, but the instruction is often assumed to apply in criminal courts as well. 
  • It does not name the official reports, but the official California reports are as follows: 
    • For the Supreme Court (Cal.): Cal., Cal. 2d, Cal. 3d, or Cal. 4th. 
    • For the Court of Appeal (Cal. Ct. App.): Cal. App., Cal. App. 2d, Cal. App. 3d, or Cal. App. 4th.
  • It preempts the Bluebook table which requires the use of the following regional and unofficial reporters:
    • Pacific Reporter, and West’s California Reporter. 
    • See "California" in T1 “United States Jurisdictions": “Cite to P. or P.2d, or P.3d” and “Cite to P. or P.2d (before 1960) or Cal. Rptr., Cal. Rptr. 2d  . . ."
  • It preempts the California Style Manual § 1:12 (p. 16), which says “In addition to providing citations to the Official Reports, the better practice is to also provide a parallel citation to one or both paper-based unofficial reporters. Opinions, however, are customarily filed without parallel citations, particularly for California opinions, but those citations are added as enhancements for Official Reports publication.” 

For many years, the California Style Manual was the official citation guide for materials filed in the California state courts. However, California Rule of Court 1.200, effective Jan. 1, 2008, provides that attorneys can choose to use either the California Style Manual or the Bluebook for citations, provided that the same style is used consistently throughout a document. Notwithstanding this rule, California courts continue to recommend use of the citation style established in the California Style Manual.  

The 4th edition, published in 2000, is the most recent edition of the California Style Manual.  The California Style Manual, in addition to being available in print, is also freely available online from California's Sixth District Appellate Program.  

When working with the California Style Manual, the following sections may be particularly useful:

  • Table of frequently used abbreviations. Just after the table of contents is a table identifying the commonly used abbreviations.

  • Index. The index at the end of the California Style Manual can be used to look up specific sources and citation elements.

For more information, see the sections of the Loyola Law School Los Angeles Library's Guide on Bluebooking and Legal Citation that address the California Style Manual.