APA Legal References Purdue OWL® (2023)

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 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.


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


How do you cite a legal reference in APA? ›

Revised on June 16, 2022. To cite federal laws (also commonly referred to as statutes or acts) in APA Style, include the name of the law, “U.S.C.” (short for United States Code), the title and section of the code where the law appears, the year, and optionally the URL.

How do you reference a legal case in APA 7? ›

In text references must adhere to APA7 style.
The basics for a reference list entry for a Case:
  1. Case name (in italics).
  2. Year (in round brackets).
  3. Volume number.
  4. Law report abbreviation.
  5. First page number.
  6. The first line of each citation is left adjusted. Every subsequent line is indented 5-7 spaces.
Feb 17, 2023

What is a legal citation example? ›

Typically, a proper legal citation will inform the reader about a source's authority, how strongly the source supports the writer's proposition, its age, and other, relevant information. This is an example citation to a United States Supreme Court court case: Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 480 (1965).

Do you have to cite a law in APA? ›

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.

How do you cite a legal article? ›

Citations to Articles

A typical article citation follows the following format: Author's name, Title of Article, Journal Volume #, Abbreviation of Journal, Page on which article begins, span of specific pages being cited, date of publication.

Do you need to reference legislation APA 7? ›

Treat references to legal materials like references to works with no author; that is, cite cases and legislation in-text by the case name or short title of the legislation. APA suggests adding URLs where it will aid retrieval (p.

How do you reference a court case in writing? ›

To cite to a case in the United States Reports, list the following five elements in order:
  1. Name of the case (underlined or italicized);
  2. Volume of the United States Reports;
  3. Reporter abbreviation ("U.S.");
  4. First page where the case can be found in the reporter;
  5. Year the case was decided (within parentheses).
Nov 30, 2022

What citation format do lawyers use? ›

The Bluebook style guide is used in the American legal profession for citation of all relevant sources. Additionally, the Chicago Manual of Style recommends its use for all citation of legal material.

Do you have to cite every reference in APA? ›

The APA Publication Manual (6th ed.) says, "Each reference cited in text must appear in the reference list, and each entry in the reference list must be cited in text" (p. 174).

How do I cite an online legal article? ›

A citation to an internet web page generally contains the following information: (1) the author, (2) the title of the web page, (3) the title of the website, (4) the date and time, and (5) the URL.

How do you cite government and legal sources? ›

Name of Government, Name of Agency. Title of Document: Subtitle if Given. Collection/Series, Volume, Publication Date, Page Numbers. Publishing Agency, URL (without the https://).

Do I have to reference laws? ›

In a nutshell. A citation in a footnote is not required when citing legislation if all the information the reader needs about the source is provided in the text, as in the following sentence: This case highlights the far-reaching judicial role ushered in by the Human Rights Act 1998.

What does a case citation look like? ›

Typically, a case citation is comprised of: the names of the parties involved in the lawsuit. the volume number of the reporter containing the full text of the case. the abbreviated title of that case reporter.

How to do bluebook citations? ›

Always start with the full name of the author, followed by a comma. Then, cite the full name of the article (underlined or italicized), followed by a comma. Then, the volume number of the law review, followed by the abbreviation of the law review (see T13, starting on page 510).

What is Rule 10.4 Bluebook? ›

Court - Rule 10.4

A citation should indicate the court where an opinion was issued. Apart from some exceptions noted below, the jurisdiction and court is indicated in a citation's first parenthetical (before the year).

Is APA and Bluebook the same? ›

-The major difference when citing legal resources in APA style versus the Bluebook style is the Bluebook is not used to cite legal periodical articles or books, one needs to refer to APA style for this. -When writing for law review or other law journals, APA formatting must be used, Bluebook citation is not sufficient.

What is the difference between APA and Bluebook? ›

The major difference between the two, according to the APA Style Guide, is Bluebook lists references as footnotes but APA uses a reference list instead. Books and periodicals (other than law reviews) are cited in regular APA style. For more detailed information on citing students should consult The Bluebook.

Do you use MLA or APA for law? ›

Next: Which Citation Management Program Should I Choose? >>
Don't Know Which Citation Style You Need to Use?
Anthropology - use ChicagoLaw & Legal Studies - use Bluebook, Maroonbook or ALWD
International Studies - use APA, APSA, or ChicagoSociology - use ASA
Journalism - use AP or APATheater - use MLA or Chicago
10 more rows
Apr 12, 2022

How do you check a legal citation? ›

How to Cite Check
  1. Check the accuracy of the author, title, publication year, and page numbers.
  2. Check that all claims are supported by the sources that are cited.
  3. Check that pinpoint citations, id., supra, and infra cross-references are provided and correct.
  4. Confirm that the source is current.
Sep 16, 2022

What are common citations? ›

APA Style is the most popular citation style, widely used in the social and behavioral sciences. MLA style is the second most popular, used mainly in the humanities. Chicago notes and bibliography style is also popular in the humanities, especially history. Chicago author-date style tends to be used in the sciences.

Is a citation the same as a crime? ›

What Is The Difference Between Receiving A Citation And Being Arrested? Tickets or citations are sometimes given to a defendant instead of going through the process of taking you to jail, fingerprinting you and taking your mug shot. If you are issued a ticket for a misdemeanor, that is considered an arrest.

Is there a citation checker? ›

The APA Citation Checker detects missing references in your document. The interactive report then allows you to fix them quickly and easily, resolving issues in seconds.

How do I find a source citation? ›

Google Scholar
  1. Go to Google Scholar Advanced Search to display all the search options.
  2. Use the exact phrase search box for the title of the reference.
  3. For where my words occur select in the title of the article.
  4. Use the return articles authored by search box for the author's last name.
  5. Search to locate the reference.

How do I check someone's citation? ›

Web of Science
  1. Enter the name of the author in the top search box (e.g. Smith JT). Select Author from the drop-down menu on the right. ...
  2. Click on Search.
  3. Click on Citation Report on the right hand corner of the results page. The H-index is on the right of the screen.
Feb 9, 2023

What are 5 things that do not need to be cited or documented? ›

Listed below are a few items you generally don't need to cite no matter which citation style you use.
  • Your own personal/anecdotal information or experiences.
  • Your own arguments or opinions.
  • Your own videos, photographs, and other artwork you've created.
  • "Common knowledge"- This one is a little tricky to distinguish.
May 23, 2022

What are the 3 common referencing styles? ›

APA (American Psychological Association) is used by Education, Psychology, and Sciences. MLA (Modern Language Association) style is used by the Humanities. Chicago/Turabian style is generally used by Business, History, and the Fine Arts.

Is citation a evidence? ›

Citing evidence means providing examples from a text in order to prove that the information is true and accurate. This can be accomplished with both direct quotations from a text or with paraphrasing. A direct quotation is when a writer uses the exact words as they appear in the original text in their own paper.

Why not citing your sources is a crime? ›

Citations also show that you have done the proper research work and that you've consulted appropriate texts for your assignment. Failure to cite basically means that you are claiming that the entire paper and all of its information as yours and, if that's untrue, it's plagiarism.

Is a citation like a warning? ›

No, a warning is just an informal way of censuring a driver.

However, a traffic ticket – also called a traffic citation – is intended to punish a driver for different traffic violations. You can either pay a traffic ticket or contest it in court.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Twana Towne Ret

Last Updated: 12/17/2023

Views: 6157

Rating: 4.3 / 5 (64 voted)

Reviews: 95% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Twana Towne Ret

Birthday: 1994-03-19

Address: Apt. 990 97439 Corwin Motorway, Port Eliseoburgh, NM 99144-2618

Phone: +5958753152963

Job: National Specialist

Hobby: Kayaking, Photography, Skydiving, Embroidery, Leather crafting, Orienteering, Cooking

Introduction: My name is Twana Towne Ret, I am a famous, talented, joyous, perfect, powerful, inquisitive, lovely person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.