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Legal References 

Most legal materials are cited using Bluebook style, which is the standard legal citation style used in all disciplines (see Bluebook style in The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation, 2015). APA defers to Bluebook style for legal materials and uses those templates and patterns in bibliographies. This resource lists some of the common legal references APA users might need in their work, but it is not exhaustive. Please note, legal conventions may differ outside the US.

Cases & Court Decisions 

Cases and court decisions generally include these elements:

  • title or name of case (e.g. Plessy v. Ferguson)

  • citation (in law, this means the volume and page in reporters, or books where case decisions are published)

  • jurisdiction of the court, in parentheses (e.g., US Supreme Court, Illinois Court of Appeals)

  • date of decision, in same parentheses as jurisdiction

  • URL (optional)

Parenthetical citations and narrative citations in-text are formatted the same as with any other source (first element of the reference list entry, year), though unlike with other sources, court decisions and cases use italics for the title in the in-text citation. For example, (Brown v. Board of Education, 1954).

US federal court decisions are published in different reporters and therefore have different reference list templates. They are as follows:

US Supreme Court

Name v. Name, Volume # U.S. Page # (Year). URL

This template follows the list of elements at the top of this section, except jurisdiction (the reporter book, U.S. for United States Reports, only contains Supreme Court decisions so the jurisdiction can be inferred).

US Circuit Court

"Name v. Name, Volume # F. [or F.2d, F.3d] Page # (Court Year). URL

This template follows this list of elements at the top of this section in its entirety, because the reporter cited, the Federal Reporter, publishes decisions from various US Circuit Courts. F., F.2d, and F.3d in the template above indicate the reporter and its subsequent series.

US District Court 

Name v. Name, Volume # F. Supp. Page # (Court Year). URL

Similar to the Circuit Court template, the US District Court template includes all elements and the reporter designation refers to Federal Supplements, where all US District Court decisions are published.

State court decisions closely follow the templates above, but because there are various reporters that publish their decisions, that element of the template will vary and is represented here by the word "Reporter." 

State Court Decisions 

Name v. Name, Volume # Reporter Page # (Court Year). URL

An example of a court decision reference is as follows:

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

Statutes

Statutes are laws and acts passed by legislative bodies. Federal statutes can be found in the United States Code, abbreviated U.S.C., where they are divided into sections called titles that cover various topics. New laws are added into the title they most belong to. State statutes are published in their own state-specific publication.

The elements of a statute reference list entry are as follows, in order:

  • name of the act

  • title, source (check the Bluebook for abbreviations), and section number of the statute;

  • the publication date of the compilation you used to find the statute, in parentheses

  • URL (optional)

In-text citations are formatted similarly to court decisions above (name of the act, year). Years may be confusing because acts are often passed in a different year than they are published; you should always use the year when the law was published in the compilation you looked at.

Federal and State Statutes 

Name of Act, Title # Source § Section # (Year). URL

A common example:

Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (1990). 

Note: Et seq is a Latin abbreviation indicating that the section number is the first in a series of a few sections that codify this act.

You should check the Bluebook for state statutes as some states use chapter or article numbers rather than sections; similarly the Bluebook contains all necessary abbreviations and symbols. Some federal statutes may include public law numbers, which you can use in the reference list entry in place of the U.S.C. publication information. 

Other Legislative Materials 

Other legislative materials like testimony, hearings, bills that are not law, and related documents can also be cited. Their reference list templates (below) may include a URL if one is available, but the URL is optional. In-text citations follow the same patterns as court decisions and cases.

Federal Testimony 

Title of testimony, ### Cong. (Year) (testimony of Testifier Name). URL

Cong. here stands for the Congress hearing the testimony and usually appears as something like 110th Cong.

Full Federal Hearing 

Title of hearing, ### Cong. (Year). URL

The hearing title usually includes the subcommittee name.

Unenacted Federal Bill or Resolution

Title [if relevant], H.R. or S. bill/resolution number, ### Cong. (Year). URL

HR and S here represent House of Representatives and Senate, and should be used according to the source of the bill or resolution.

Enacted Simple or Concurrent Federal Resolution

S. Res. ###, ### Cong., Volume # Cong. Rec. Page # (Year) (enacted). URL

The template above is for the Senate and can be modified for the House of Representatives by replacing S. with H.R. at the beginning. Res. ### stands for the resolution number, written Res. 111, and Volume # stands for the volume of the Congressional Record, written 122 ("volume" is omitted).

Federal Report 

S. (or H.R.) Rep. No. ###-### (Year). URL

Again S. and H.R. are for Senate and House of Representatives, and should be used according to the source of the report. Replace ###-### with the report number.

Administrative and Executive Materials 

These materials include rules, regulations, executive orders, and advisory opinions. Their in-text citation patterns follow typical APA patterns: (first element of reference list entry, year) with no italics.

Federal Regulation, Codified 

Title or Number, Volume # C.F.R. § ### (Year). URL

CFR here stands for the Code of Federal Regulations. "Volume #" should be replaced with the number and ### stands for the section number.

Federal Regulation, Not Yet Codified 

Title or Number, Volume # F.R. Page (proposed Month Day, Year) (to be codified at Volume # C.F.R. § ###). URL

FR here stands for the Federal Register. Other elements follow the pattern of the codified federal regulation template explained above.

Executive Order 

Exec. Order No. #####, 3 C.F.R. Page (Year). URL

should be replaced with the number of the executive order, and page should be replaced with the page number. All executive orders are published in Title 3 of the CFR referenced above, so 3 will always precede C.F.R. when citing them.

Patent

Patents are cited more like traditional APA sources.

Inventor, A. A. (Year patent issued). Title of patent (U.S. Patent No. ###). U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. URL

Constitutions, Charters, and Treaties 

You do not need to create a citation for entire federal or state constitutions. Simply reference them in the text by name. When citing particular articles and amendments, create reference list entries and in-text citations as normal. The US Constitution should be abbreviated in reference lists and parentheticals to U.S. Const. Use legal state abbreviations for state constitutions, such as In. Const. for Indiana's Constitution. In the narrative, spell out these place names: U.S., United States, Indiana. Follow the constitution's numbering pattern (Roman for the US Constitution articles and amendments and for state constitution articles, but Arabic for state amendments).

Article of a Constitution

U.S. Const. art. ###, § x.

### here is an article number, and x is a section number.

Amendment to a Constitution 

U.S. Const. amend. ###

### here is the amendment number. If the amendment has been repealed, add (repealed Year) to the end of the reference.

UN Charter 

U.N. Charter art. ##, para. ##.

## here are article and paragraph numbers. The paragraph element can be omitted if you're citing the whole article.

UN Treaty or Convention

Name of Treaty or Convention, Month Day, Year, URL