February 17

How to Bluebook Cite a Court Case


As you may know, legal citations are a very important aspect of legal writing and forming persuasive legal arguments. Some of the best paid paralegal positions require paralegals to help attorneys with the legal citations in their court filings. 

One of the most common citations is a court case. Below, we give instruction on how to cite a court case. ​​

Clip from our legal citations workshop

Remember, we have a legal citations workshop (live over Zoom) which ​gives you all the information you need to become a Cite Checking PRO

Citing a Court Case
Citing a court case according to The Bluebook rules involves several components. Here’s a breakdown of how to properly format a citation to a court case:

Citing a court case according to The Bluebook rules involves several components. Here’s a breakdown of how to properly format a citation to a court case:

1. Case Name

  • Format: The case name, or “style of cause,” should be in italics or underlined.
  • Parties: Only the first party on each side of the case is usually included for cases in appellate courts.
  • Abbreviations: Omit most abbreviations and all procedural phrases (like “In re” or “ex parte”) except for “v.” (for versus).
  • Capitalization: Capitalize the principal words.

2. Citations (Volume, Reporter, Page Number)

  • Volume: The volume number of the reporter in which the case is published comes first.
  • Reporter: The abbreviated name of the reporter follows the volume number.
  • Page Number: The page number on which the case begins comes after the reporter.
  • Example: 123 F.3d 456 (123 = Volume, F.3d = Federal Reporter, Third Series, 456 = Page Number).

3. Court and Date

  • Court: Add an abbreviation of the court that decided the case (only if the court is not obvious from the reporter).
  • Year: The year of the decision is placed in parentheses at the end.
  • Example: 123 F.3d 456 (9th Cir. 1996)

4. Parenthetical

  • Rule for Parenthetical: A parenthetical may be used to provide additional information about the case, such as the court’s jurisdiction, the decision’s procedural posture, or a brief explanation of the case’s relevance.
  • Placement: The parenthetical comes after the year and is also enclosed in parentheses.
  • (en banc) indicating the full court participated.
  • (affirming denial of a motion to dismiss) to explain the procedural posture or the decision made.

Full Citation Example

Smith v. Jones, 123 F.3d 456 (9th Cir. 1996) (en banc).

This example includes the case name in italics, the volume number, the reporter abbreviation, the page number, the court in abbreviation (if necessary), and the year in parentheses. If applicable, a parenthetical providing additional information about the case is included after the year.

Remember, The Bluebook offers detailed rules for various situations and exceptions, so it’s important to consult it directly for complex cases or for citations to other types of legal materials.


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