Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Law in the LaboratoryA Guide to the Ethics of Federally Funded Science Research$

Robert P. Charrow

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780226101644

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226101668.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2017. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use (for details see http://www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com/page/privacy-policy). Subscriber: null; date: 30 March 2017

(p.301) Appendix A A Short Guide to the Unusual World of Legal Citations

(p.301) Appendix A A Short Guide to the Unusual World of Legal Citations

Law in the Laboratory
University of Chicago Press

The legal citation system does not resemble any other system, nor is it based on the sage advice of renowned legal scholars. To the contrary, the citation system was developed and is updated episodically by law students at Yale, Harvard, Pennsylvania, and Columbia and is compiled in The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation, now in its eighteenth edition. Some of the citation conventions are just weird and appear to be outgrowths of frat parties gone amok; others are inadequate or antiquated. For example, in citing patents, the Bluebook uses the date the patent was issued. This was useful when the life of a patent was seventeen years from the date of its issue. But that is no longer the case; the term of a patent is twenty years from the date the application is filed, making the filing date the critical point.

A number of conventions are unique to legal citation, and these the reader will spot immediately. For example, the volume number of any journal or other multivolume set precedes the name of the journal or set. Thus, in citing an article in Science, the information would appear in the following order: authors' names, article title (in italics), volume number, journal name (in small capital letters), starting page of article, page where information is to be found (called a spot cite or jump cite), and the year (in parentheses). The precise date of the publication, March 23, is omitted; the year alone is cited. Thus, the journal cite for an article that appears in the March 23, 2007, issue of Science would look as follows:

Yaniv Brandvain, Michael S. Barker & Michael J. Wade, Gene Coinheritance and Gene Transfer, 315 SCIENCE 1685 (2007).

I occasionally refer to cases that have been decided by courts and to federal statutes or rules. Cases are compiled in books called case reporters that identify the court. For example, cases decided by the Supreme Court of the United States are compiled in United States Reports, published by the Government Printing Office. Cases decided by the U.S. courts of appeals (also (p.302) known as circuit courts) are found in the Federal Reporter (abbreviated as F., F.2d, or F.3d, depending on the series), published by West Publishing Co.1 Decisions from the federal trial courts (also called district courts) are published in the Federal Supplement (abbreviated F. Supp. or F. Supp. 2d), also published by West. Take, for example, the citation for the following case:

Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Veneman, 469 F.3d 826 (9th Cir. 2006).

This citation indicates that the case is found on page 826 of volume 469 of the Federal Reporter, Third Series, and was decided by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (which sits in San Francisco and Pasadena), the circuit most frequently reversed by the Supreme Court. The defendant, Ann Veneman, is being sued in her official capacity as the secretary of agriculture; this bit of information you can glean only from reading the case. Case names, by the way, are either italicized or underlined; I prefer the former. (This rule has an exception: Case names appear in Roman when used in footnotes.) Usually, the plaintiff (the person or entity bringing the suit) appears on the left side of the “v.” and the defendant (the person or entity being sued) appears to the right of the “v.”

Federal statutes are codified in the United States Code by subject area.2 The United States Code is divided into fifty titles; each title is devoted to a specific subject or set of related subjects or nearly related subjects.3 For example, titles 1–5 of the United States Code are devoted to organizing the government, title 21 is largely reserved for the Food and Drug Administration and the Controlled Substances Act; title 42 contains, among other things, the Public Health Service Act, Medicare, and Medicaid. Thus, 42 U.S.C. § 1395 is section 1395 of title 42 and is the first section of Medicare; 21 U.S.C. § 321(h) defines what a drug is; and so on.

Federal regulations are compiled in the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.), which is published by the Government Printing Office and is also arranged by titles. Remember, the volume or title number always comes first. When regulations are first issued, they appear in the Federal Register. The Federal Register is published daily by the Government Printing Office and contains not only regulations and proposed regulations, but also notices about federal agency meetings, most of which are open to the public. The Federal Register contains no Sudoku, no crosswords, no comics, and no sports page; it is probably the single most boring journal in the world.


(1.) The first series carries cases from 1880 to 1924, the second series carries cases from 1925 to 1993, and the third series carries cases from 1993 through the present. Also, not all cases are published. Each court decides which cases it wants published and which it does not.

(p.303) (2.) See 1 U.S.C. § 204.

(3.) Not all statutes make it into the United States Code. When Congress passes a law, it indicates whether that new law or portions of it will be codified or not. All statutes enacted by Congress (whether codified or not) can be found in the Statutes at Large, published by the Government Printing Office since 1874.