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Bluebooking and Legal Citation

Rules for Cases

  • B10- basic format for cases in court documents.
  • R10- detailed format for cases in academic writing.
  • T1- preferred reporter and court abbreviation for each court.
  • B2 & R2- rules for underlining and italicizing case names. 



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Do not rely solely on this page to Bluebook.

Please keep in mind:

  1. Your professor or court system may have special rules.
  2. Rules or situations may have changed since this page was last updated.
  3. We may be wrong! 

Double check with your professor, outside guides, and the Bluebook rules themselves.

If you notice a mistake, please contact

Basic Bluebook Format for Cases

Basic Format

Mattel, Inc. v. MCA Records, Inc., 296 F.3d 894, 908 (9th Cir. 2002)

Formatting Tips

  • In academic writing, the case name is in normal type in footnotes and italicized in text. In court documents, the case name is underlined or italicized.
  • Everything else is in normal type in both academic writing and court documents

Finding the Citation Information for a Case

The fastest way to collect all of the citation information for a case is to highlight the specific text you would like to cite and use the database's copy with citation feature. (See Video tab.) This will provide you with all of the information you need to cite the case but it will not be properly Bluebooked. In particular, you should check:

  • The case name abbreviations, which are often different from those required by the Bluebook. (See the box below on Abbreviating the Case Name.)
  • The reporter and court parenthetical. The databases err on the side of giving you more information rather than less and commonly provide multiple reporters and a court parenthetical even when it's not necessary. Additionally, the databases often incorrectly space the reporter and court parenthetical. (See the boxes below on Citing the Preferred Reporter and Including the Court Parenthetical.)
  • Westlaw's Copy with reference feature typically skips footnote numbers. If citing to a footnote, add the number of the footnote after the page number in the format n.1. For example, if citing to footnote 3 on page 807, provide the pin as 807 n.3.

Alternately, you can find most of the citation information you need at the top of the screen on Lexis and Westlaw. (See Screencap tabs.)

Screenshot of lexis that identifies the case name, court, year, official reporter, and west reporter

Screenshot of westlaw that identifies the location of the case name, court, year, official reporter, and west reporter

Finding the Pin for a Case

A pin cite (also called a pinpoint or point cite) identifies the specific page of the case you are citing. Include a pin whenever possible: your goal is to point the judge to the exact portion of the case that proves you are correct, not to irritate the judge by forcing them to slog through a forty page case. 

Online, the start of each page is indicated by a starred number, such as *190 or **807. If you copy with citation after highlighting the specific text you would like to cite, your citation will generally include the correct pin. 

When determining the correct pin, keep in mind these common trouble spots (Shown on the Screencap tabs):

  • Numbers indicate the start of each page. This means everything after **807 is on page 807 but everything before it is on page 806.
  • Different numbers of stars indicate different reporters. Lexis provides a cheat sheet at the top of the page. On Westlaw, you'll have to work it out logically. For example, if the case citations are 64 Cal. App. 4th 186 and 74 Cal. Rptr. 2d 804, then **807 refers to the Cal. Rptr. version.
  • Can't find the right page number on Westlaw? You're probably in the wrong version. Look for an option at the top of the page to switch to the National Reporter version.

Screenshot of lexis case search that identifies the pin

Screenshot of westlaw case search that identifies the pin

Screenshot of locating west reporter

Abbreviating the Case Name

In sentences, follow the rules in R10.2.1. In citations, follow the rules in R10.2.1 plus the rules in R10.2.2, T6, and T10

Unfortunately, there's no simple trick to memorizing all the rules but over time you'll get a feel for what looks right. If you're feeling overwhelmed, start with B10.1.1, which summarizes the rules that come up most often. 

Occasionally, students are thrown off by unusual case name formats. Most case names use the basic format Smith v. Smith but some cases use the format In re Smith (commonly used in juvenile court), In re Estate of Smith (commonly used in inheritance cases), and In re Three Pink Cadillacs (commonly used in litigation over property.) If the case name shown at the top of the screen uses the In re format, you do not need to "correct" it to Smith v. Smith.

Citing the Preferred Reporter

Cases are published in "reporters": large multivolume sets of books that publish cases by date. Usually, each court's cases are published in one or more competing reporters. Table T1 identifies which reporter to cite to (the "preferred reporter") with the phrase "Cite to [reporter abbreviation], if therein." The major preferred reporters are:

  • For federal cases: U.S., F., and F. Supp.
  • For California state cases: P. and Cal. Rptr.
  • For other state cases: P., A., N.E., N.W., S.E., So., S.W., and N.Y.S.

Do not use spaces between single capitals (e.g. U.S.) or single capitals and ordinals (e.g. F.3d) but do use spaces between any abbreviation containing more than one letter (e.g. F. Supp. 2d) (R6.1(a).)

For most courts, the reporter the Bluebook tells you to cite is part of West's National Reporter System, an unofficial set of reporters that covers all federal and state courts. However, courts and professors often tell you to cite to the official reporter instead. For example, Table T1 tells you to cite California state court cases to West's unofficial Cal. Rptr. or P. reporters, such as:  

People v. Foranyic, 74 Cal. Rptr. 2d 804, 806 (Ct. App. 1988)

However, Cal. Rules of Court, rule 3.1113(c) and some professors tell you to cite California state court cases to Lexis' official Cal., Cal. App., and Cal. App. Supp. reporters, such as: 

People v. Foranyic, 64 Cal. App. 4th 186, 189 (1988)

Some courts and professors require you to provide "parallel citations" to multiple reporters. B10.1.3 provides a suggested format for parallel citations:

People v. Foranyic, 64 Cal. App. 4th 186, 189, 74 Cal. Rptr. 2d 804, 806 (1988)

BT2 provides a list of court rules that require you to cite the official reporter or provide parallel citations.

Including the Court Parenthetical

B10.1.3 tells you to indicate the deciding court unless it is unambiguously conveyed by the reporter title. When providing parallel citations, omit the court if any of the reporter titles conveys the court. As with reporters, do not use spaces between single capitals but do use spaces between any abbreviation containing more than one letter (e.g. C.D. Cal.) (R6.1(a).)

For example:

Meritor Sav. Bank v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57 (1986) (U.S. publishes only U.S. Supreme Court cases. No court is needed.)

Mattel, Inc. v. MCA Records, Inc., 296 F.3d 894, 908 (9th Cir. 2002) (F. publishes federal Court of Appeals cases from across the country and some older district court cases. Use 9th Cir. to indicate that this case was decided by the Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeal.)

No Doubt v. Activision Publ'g, Inc., 702 F. Supp. 2d 1139 (C.D. Cal. 2010) (F. Supp. publishes federal district court cases from across the country. Use C.D. Cal. to indicate that this case was decided by the Central District of California.)

Chaudhary v. Gen. Motors Corp., 649 P.2d 224 (Cal. 1982) (The unofficial P. reporter publishes cases from multiple states and multiple court levels. Use the Cal. abbreviation to indicate that this case was decided by the California Supreme Court. For California Court of Appeals cases, use Cal. Ct. App.)

Chaudhary v. Gen. Motors Corp., 32 Cal. 3d 112, 649 P.2d 224 (1982) (The official Cal. reporter publishes only California Supreme Court cases. No court is needed.)

People v. Foranyic, 74 Cal. Rptr. 2d 804 (Ct. App. 1988) (The unofficial Cal. Rptr. publishes cases from California courts of all levels. Indicating the state is unnecessary, but use the Ct. App. abbreviation to indicate the court level.)

People v. Foranyic, 64 Cal. App. 4th 186 (1988) (The official Cal. App. reporter publishes only California Court of Appeals cases. No court is needed.)

Indicating the court allows you to see at a glance if a case is mandatory (such as a case from the U.S. Supreme Court, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal, California Supreme Court, or any California Court of Appeal) or persuasive (such as a federal Court of Appeal case from another circuit or a trial court case.)