This is the "Home" page of the "How to Read a Legal Citation" guide.
Alternate Page for Screenreader Users
Skip to Page Navigation
Skip to Page Content

How to Read a Legal Citation   Tags: 1l, basic, citation, firstyear, introduction, legal  

This is a brief introduction designed for beginning first year law students on how to read a legal citation.
Last Updated: Sep 17, 2013 URL: http://lawguides.scu.edu/legalcitation Print Guide RSS Updates

Home Print Page
  Search: 
 

Other Research Guides for New Students

1L Guide on Research, Analysis and Exam Prep
by Reference Department - Last Updated Feb 19, 2014
This guide is designed for first-year law students who are looking for materials to help them with their legal research and writing course (LARAW), and basic legal analysis. There is also a section on preparing for exams.
295 views this year
How to find previous exams
by David Holt - Last Updated Sep 28, 2011
Use this guide to find previous exams given at Santa Clara Law. Exams may be available in either print, or available electronically.
68 views this year
Introduction to United States Law
by David Holt - Last Updated Mar 31, 2014
This guide gives students, particularly foreign law students unfamiliar with United States and common law, a list of sources in the law library that provide general information on US law and American legal English, as well as succeeding in law school.
195 views this year
1L Guide for Orientation
by Reference Department - Last Updated Aug 6, 2013
This guide is designed to assist first year students, and transfer students, navigate through the orientation process.
116 views this year
Federal Civil Procedure
by William Logan - Last Updated Dec 20, 2010
A guide to resources available at the Heafey Law Library for Federal Civil Procedure
59 views this year
Federal Statutory Research
by Ellen Platt - Last Updated Dec 15, 2010
This guide contains materials for locating federal legislative documents such as session laws, code sections, and other online resources.
63 views this year
California Legal Research
by Ellen Platt - Last Updated Apr 1, 2014
Use this as a guide to researching California law using any of these three tools: Legal encyclopedias/treatises, Annotated codes, or Case Digests.
3,727 views this year
 

Introduction

Say you have been asked to read Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483.

This is an example of a legal citation to a case. Citations are abbreviated references to legal sources, such as court reporters, statutory compilations, and law reviews. Citations generally follow this standard format:

Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954)

Party Names

347

U.S.

483

Brown v. Board of Education

Volume number

Abbreviated Court Reporter Title

Page or Section Number

 

The difficulty with citations lies in deciphering the abbreviations of the source title. The Bluebook lists the abbreviations used for each court reporter, statutory compilation and law review. In the above example, U.S. stands for United States Reports, a publication of United States Supreme Court decisions.

So now you know that Brown v. Board of Education is located in volume 347, page 483 of the United States Reports.

 

Parallel Citations

However, opinions of certain courts are often published in more than one court reporter. Citations to the same case in different reporters are called parallel citations. For example, opinions of the US Supreme Court may be found in three different court reporters:

  • United States Reports (U.S.), published by the US government, this is the official reporter,
  • Supreme Court Reporter (S.Ct.), an unofficial reporter published by West Publishing and
  • United States Supreme Court Reports, Lawyer's Edition (L.Ed.), another unofficial reporter published by Lexis Publishing.

So your citation might look like this:

Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483, 74 S. Ct. 686, 98 L. Ed. 873

Official Citation

Parallel Citation

Parallel Citation

 347 U.S. 483

 74 S. Ct. 686

 98 L. Ed. 873

 

Legal Citation Materials

Here is a list of materials, available at the Heafey Law Library, which may be helpful in understanding the basics of legal citation.

Electronic Services Reference Law Librarian

Profile Image
David Brian Holt
 
Description

Loading  Loading...

Tip