Interpreting Legal Citations
Before you can begin finding cases, you need to be able to interpret legal citations. When reading about a case, you will see a reference along the lines of:
Alamo Land & Cattle Co. v. Arizona, 428 US 295 (1976)
and will want to find the case. Legal citations are always given in the form:
case name, volume number case reporter abbreviation page number (year)
Therefore Alamo Land & Cattle Co. v. Arizona, 428 US 295 (1976) refers to a particular case, Alamo Land & Cattle Co v. Arizona, the text of which begins on page 295 of volume 428 in the United States Reports. Journal citations are given the same way, such as:
Malken, Jeffrey, "Stolen Photographs: Personality, Publicity, and Privacy", 75 Tex.L.Rev. 779 (1997)
The case name is pretty self-evident. The tricky part is translating the case reporter abbreviations. The most common abbreviations are:
|US||United States Reports||The official reporter for United States Supreme Court cases.|
|SCt||Supreme Court Reporter||An unofficial reporter for United States Supreme Court cases.|
|L.Ed.||Lawyers' Edition, United States Supreme Court Reports||Another unofficial reporter for United States Supreme Court cases.|
|F.2d or F.3d||Federal Reporter, 2nd or 3rd Series||The reporter for the United States Circuit Courts of Appeal.|
|F.Supp or F.Supp.2d||Federal Supplement, 1st or 2nd series||The reporter for the United States District Courts opinions.|
|S.W., S.W.2d, or S.W.3d||Southwestern Reporter, 1st, 2nd, or 3rd Series||The reporter for the highest courts in selected states, including Texas.|
If you have trouble interpreting a reporter abbreviation, you should check:
- Dictionary of legal abbreviations used in American law books
- compiled by Doris M. Bieger. 2nd ed. Buffalo, NY : W.S. Hein, 1985.
KF246.B46 1985 Reference
Citing Cases and Journal Articles
For instructions on how to cite legal sources properly, check:
- The Bluebook: a uniform system of citation
- compiled by the editors of the Columbia law review, the Harvard law review, the University of Pennsylvania law review, and the Yale law journal. 16th ed. Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard Law Review Association, 1996.
- KF245.B58 1996 Reference
- Introduction to Basic Legal Citation (2006 ed.)
- Based on the 18th edition of the Bluebook, which is the standard used for most legal journals and is usually required by courts for briefs and memoranda.
- Texas rules of form
- Texas law review. 9th ed. Austin, Tex. : University of Texas at Austin School of Law Publications, 1997.
- Z UA345.5 T312ruf 1997 Texas Documents
- AALL Universal Citation Guide, Version 2.1
- A proposal from the American Association of Law Libraries on a vendor-neutral way to cite judicial decisions, constitutions, statutes, and administrative regulations, with rules for citing law reviews and court rules.
Any questions? Ask a Librarian, or call us at 806/651-2205.