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Bluebooking and Legal Citation: Bluebooking U.S. Statutes

Rules for U.S. Statutes

  • B12- basic format for statutes in court documents.
  • R12- detailed format for statutes in academic writing.
  • R12.9- special rules for specific types of statutes, including the Internal Revenue Code, Rules of Evidence and Procedure, sentencing guidelines, and uniform and model rules.
  • T1.1- Federal Judicial and Legislative Materials- formats for the U.S. code are shown at the very end



Caution sign with hand on orange background.

Caution by kaneiderdaniel/ CC BY SA 3.0

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 Federal Statutes

Basic Format

1 U.S.C. § 1 (2012)

Formatting Tips

  • U.S.C. is in all capitals. Everything else is in normal type.
  • To make the § symbol in Word, select Insert > Symbol, then select §. Click Insert to add the symbol or Shortcut Key to create an easy to remember keyboard shortcut, like Alt S. (See Screencap tab.)

Screenshot of Microsoft word

Finding the Title and Section for the U.S.C.

The title and section of the U.S.C. are shown at the top of the screen on Lexis and Westlaw and at the top of the page and the beginning of the statute in print and the exact copy of the print found on HeinOnline. (See Screencap tabs.)

If you copy the citation from Lexis or Westlaw, be sure to delete the A. in U.S.C.A. or S. in U.S.C.S. to leave U.S.C. Why is there an A. in the citation on Westlaw and an S. in the citation on Lexis? This is because there are three versions of the federal statutes:

  • The official United States Code (U.S.C.), published by the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO).
  • The unofficial United States Code Annotated (U.S.C.A.), published by West.
  • The unofficial United States Code Service (U.S.C.S.), published by Lexis.

Bluebook R12.3 requires you to cite the official U.S.C. but the title, section, and text of the statute are almost always identical for all three versions. In contrast, the date is different for each version, so finding it requires some extra work.

Screenshot of Lexis

Screenshot of Westlaw

Print publication

Finding the Date for the U.S.C.

To find the correct date, the Bluebook requires you to use the official U.S.C. (R12.3) in print, an exact copy of the print, or an authenticated or official online version (R18.2.) The library keeps the U.S.C. in print and HeinOnline provides an exact copy of the print online:

The GPO publishes a new main edition of the U.S.C. every six years and then updates it with yearly hardcover supplements, placed at the end of the main edition. Check for the statute in both the most recent main edition and the most recent supplement, then format the date as shown in R12.3.1(e), B12.1.1, and R3.1(c):

  • If the statute is in the main edition only, write the date of the main edition in the format (2012).
  • If the statute is in the main edition and amended in the supplement, write the date of the main edition and supplement in the format (2012 & Supp. IIII 2016).
  • If the statute was added after the main edition and is only in the supplement, write the date of the supplement in the format (Supp. IIII 2016).

If you are citing more than one statute, you must check the date for each statute. The date will vary depending on which volume the statute is in and when it was last amended. See the Screencap tab for examples and details.

Finally, R12.2.1 explicitly allows you to cite the authenticated version of the U.S.C. that the GPO posts on its old website, GPO FDsys:

The authenticated version is published in its entirety for each year, so the date will be the same for all statutes and you do not need to worry about checking the supplement. For all statutes in the current U.S.C., you can simply cite the most recently posted year (e.g. 2017 as of August 2018). However, if your professor, partner, or judge is a stickler for Bluebooking, they will expect to see citations to the main edition and the supplement and it will be safer to use the HeinOnline version.

Search for Your Statute in the Most Recent U.S.C.

Input your statute's citation into HeinOnline's U.S.C. citation finder. The results page will link to any volumes of the main edition and supplement that might include your statute:

Screenshot of HeinOnline

There's No Main Edition for My Statute!

Because main editions are published every six years, if your statute was passed in the last six years, it may not yet be in the main edition. In that case, check the most recent supplement.

If your statute was passed more than six years ago but there is no result for the most recent main edition, change the edition field of the search form to check the next most recent main edition. Because each main edition is published title by title, starting with Title 1, you may sometimes need to cite different statutes to different main editions. For example, if the 2018 main edition has only been published through Title 9, you would cite any statutes in or before that title (9 U.S.C. or lower) to the 2018 main edition and any statutes in higher titles (10 U.S.C. or higher) to the 2012 main edition and supplements.

Check If Your Statute(s) Are Included in the Most Recent Supplement

After you have checked for your statute in the main edition, check the most recent supplement in the results list to see if it includes your statute. You only need to check the most recent supplement because supplements are cumulative (i.e. the 2016 supplement contains all of the amendments and new statutes from the 2013, 2014, and 2015 supplements.) 

The supplement page below skips from § 704 to § 794, with no amendments to § 711A.

Because § 711A is found only in the main edition, cite it as:

18 U.S.C. § 711A (2012)

Because § 704 is found in the main edition and amended in the supplement, cite it as:

18 U.S.C. § 704 (2012 & Supp. III 2016)

Citing the Print U.S.C.A. or U.S.C.S.

The official U.S.C. is published more slowly than the unofficial U.S.C.A. and U.S.C.S. and statutes passed in the last year or two may not yet be in the U.S.C., even in a supplement. In this situation, R12.2.1(a) tells you to cite the U.S.C.S. or U.S.C.A. as shown in Table T1.1:

For West's print U.S.C.A., use the format 1 U.S.C.A. § 1 (West 2013). For Lexis' print U.S.C.S., use the format 1 U.S.C.S. § 1 (LexisNexis 2007 & Supp. 2016).

Just as when citing the U.S.C., you can copy most of the citation information from the top of the screen on Lexis and Westlaw (this time including the A. in U.S.C.A. and S. in U.S.C.S.) However, to find the year, you must use the print or an exact copy of the print (R18.2.) Neither Lexis or Westlaw provide an exact copy of their print statutes online, so to find the year you will need to access the print statutes on the second floor, next to the double doors. (See Location of Print U.S.C.A. and U.S.C.S. tab.)

To find the year in print, locate the volume that includes your statute and then use (in order of preference) the year on the spine, then the year on the title page, then the copyright year (R12.3.2.) The print U.S.C.S. and U.S.C.A. are kept up-to-date by supplements- softcover pamphlets inserted in the back of each volume ("pocket parts") or placed next to the volume identifying any changes to a statute after the volume was printed. Always check for any amendments to your statute in the supplement. (See Photos of Checking the Date in Print tab.) Format the year as shown in R12.3.2, B12.1.1, and R3.1(c):

  • If your statute is found only in the hardcover volume, use the year from the hardcover volume: (West 2006)
  • If your statute is found only in the supplement, use the year from the supplement with "Supp." in front of it: (West Supp. 2008)
  • If your statute is found in the hardcover volume and amended in the supplement, combine the two dates with &: (West 2006 & Supp. 2008)

If you are citing more than one statute, you must check the date for each statute. The date will vary depending on which volume the statute is in and when it was last amended.

Check the Date of the Main Volume Where the Statute Is Found 

Locate the main volume where the statute is found and check for the text of your statute. If you can't find the text of your statute in the main volume, it's likely in the supplement only (see next step.)

If you do find the text of your statute, check for (in order), a date on the spine, then a date on the title page, and then a copyright date. Here, there is no year on the spine, so use the year on the title page- 1996.

Check For A Supplement in the Back of the Book or Next to the Book

Here, the supplement is inserted in the back of the book and is dated 2016.

Check If Your Statute Is Amended or Added In the Supplement
Here, the supplement shows that Lexis has added additional annotations (notes recommending cases, secondary sources, and other materials) about 18 U.S.C. § 711A but the text of 18 U.S.C. § 711A itself has not changed. Accordingly, the date is:

18 U.S.C.S. § 711A (LexisNexis 1996)

In contrast, 18 U.S.C. § 713 has been amended, so the date for this statute is:

18 U.S.C.S. § 713 (LexisNexis 1996 & Supp. 2016)

If you were unable to find your statute, in the main volume but did find it in the supplement, cite only the supplement. For example:

18 U.S.C.S. § 716 (LexisNexis Supp. 2016)

Citing the U.S.C.A. on Westlaw or U.S.C.S. on Lexis

Some professors allow students to cite to Lexis or Westlaw. If your professor allows this, copy the citation shown at the top of the screen, including the A. in U.S.C.A. on Westlaw and S. in U.S.C.S. on Lexis. For the year, use the currency of the database as provided by the database itself. (See Screencap tabs.). Format as shown in R12.5(a):

For Westlaw's online U.S.C.A., use the format 1 U.S.C.A. § 1 (Westlaw through Pub. L. No. 115-34). For Lexis' online U.S.C.S., use the format 1 U.S.C.S. § 1 (LEXIS through Pub. L. No. 115-34).

If you are citing more than one statute, you can use the same date for all statutes. The date does not refer to the last time the statute was amended but, rather, to the most recent public law included in the database. A "public law" is an individual statute as it is passed by Congress. For example, if Lexis says it is current through Pub. L. No. 115-34, that means Lexis has been updated to include all statutes passed by Congress up to and including the ​34th statute passed by the 115th Congress.