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A legal citation is a reference to a legal authority where particular information, such as a case or statute, can be located. Legal citations are often confusing because they differ from references used in other types of research.
A case citation will have a volume number, a reporter and a page number.
|265 US 274|
Volume number where the case appears
Abbreviation for the title set of books reporting the case
|274||Page number on which the case begins|
Often a case will be reported in several different reporters. These additional cites are known as parallel citations. Two examples of parallel citation are given here:
-- United States Supreme Court Case --
491 U.S. 397
109 S. Ct 2533 105 L.Ed.2d 342
-- Michigan Supreme Court Case --
416 Mich. 63 330 N.W.2d 366
U.S. Supreme Court decisions are reported in three reporters listed in this example: United States Supreme Court Reports (U.S. - the official government publication); Supreme Court Reporter by West Publishing (S.Ct. - an unofficial reporter); and, United States Supreme Court Reporter, Lawyer's Edition published by the Lawyers Cooperative Publishing Company (L.Ed.2d - another unofficial reporter). They are also printed in US Law Week, a Bureau of National Affairs (BNA) publication and unofficial for court purposes. Any of the unofficial reporters will work for research citation purposes unless your professor tells you otherwise.
NOTE: You only need to look at one of the four sources, however, since each is reporting the same US Supreme Court decisions.
Schoonover v. Black Bros. Co, 914, F.2d, 258 (6th Cir. 1990 ).
Schoonover v. Black Bros. Co
the parties' names; in the citation, names are underlined and are followed by a comma and a lower case "v." replaces "versus"
|914||Reporter volume number followed by a comma|
|F.2d||Reporter name (abbreviated ) followed by a comma|
|258||The first page of the case in that volume|
|6th Cir. 1990||The court and the year of decision is enclosed in parentheses and followed with a period|
42 U.S.C § 405(a) (1988).
|U.S.C||Code title abbreviated (in this case this is the United States Code)|
|§ 405(a) (1988).||Page/paragraph and date|
Dan T. Coenen, The Constitutional Case, 75, Minn. L. Rev 1339, 1341 (1991).
Dan T. Coenen
The Constitutional Case
Title of article
|Minn. L. Rev||Title of law review abbreviated (Minnesota Law Review)|
|(1991).||Date of journal publication in parenthesis.|
Note that in this example Lexis/Nexis provides all parallel citations to this case.
BRIGHT v. LOS ANGELES UNIFIED SCH. DIST.
L.A. No. 30555
Supreme Court of California
18 Cal. 3d 450; 556 P.2d 1090; 1976 Cal. LEXIS 364; 134 Cal. Rptr. 639; 2 Media L. Rep. 1175
BRIGHT v. LOS ANGELES UNIFIED SCH. DIST. (the case name of the current case by plaintiff and defendant)
L.A. No. 30555 (pending)
Supreme Court of California, 18 Cal. 3d 450 (Volme 18 of the California Reports, Third Series, page 450)
556 P.2d 1090 (Volume 556 of the Pacific Reporter, Second Series page 1090)
1976 Cal. LEXIS 364 (year and page in Lexis Cites for California)
134 Cal. Rptr. 639 (Volume 134 of the California Reporter, page 639, from West's)
2 Media L. Rep. 1175 (Volume 2 of the Media Law Reporter, page 1175, another BNA publication)