Legal citation

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For Wikipedia's template for case citation in the U.S.A., see {{Template:Cite court}}.

Legal citation is the practice of crediting and referring to authoritative documents and sources. The most common sources of authority cited are court decisions (cases), statutes, regulations, government documents, treaties, and scholarly writing.


Typically, a proper legal citation will inform the reader about a source's authority, how strongly it 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).

This citation gives helpful information about the cited authority to the reader.

  • The names of the parties are Griswold and Connecticut. Generally, the name of the plaintiff (or, on appeal, petitioner) appears first, whereas the name of the defendant (or, on appeal, respondent) appears second. Thus, the case is Griswold v. Connecticut.
  • The case is reported in volume 381 of the United States Reports (abbreviated "U.S."). The case begins on page 479 of that volume of the reporter. The authoritative supporting material for the writer's proposition is on page 480. The reference to page 480 is referred to as a "pin cite" or "pinpoint".
  • The Supreme Court decided the case. Because the U.S. Reports publish only cases that the Supreme Court decides, the court deciding the case may be inferred from the reporter.
  • The authority supports the proposition directly because it is not qualified with a signal. If it had offered only indirect or inferential support for the proposition, the author should have preceded the cite with a qualifying signal such as see or cf.
  • The authority is from 1965, so either the clear and enduring wisdom of this source has been venerated by the test of time, or this clearly dated relic of another era is obviously ripe for revision, depending upon the needs of the writer.

Concurring and dissenting opinions are also published alongside the Court's opinion. For example, to cite to the opinion in which Justices Stewart and Black dissent, the citation would appear as the following:

 Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 527 (1965) (Stewart & Black, JJ., dissenting).

This citation is very similar to the citation to the Court's opinion. The two key differences are the pin cite, page 527 here, and the addition of the dissenting justices' names in a parenthetical following the date of the case.

Of course, legal citation in general and case citation in particular can become much more complicated.

Legal citation analysis

During a legal proceeding, a 'legal citation analysis' - i.e. using citation analysis technique for analyzing legal documents - facilitates the better understanding of the inter-related regulatory compliance documents by the exploration the citations that connect provisions to other provisions within the same document or between different documents. Legal citation analysis uses a citation graph extracted from a regulatory document, which could supplement E-discovery - a process that leverages on technological innovations in big data analytics.[1][2][3][4]

Citation by country

Some countries have a de facto citation standard that has been adopted by most of the country's institutions.

Australian legal citation usually follows the Australian Guide to Legal Citation (commonly known as AGLC)
Canadian legal citation usually follows the Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation (commonly called the McGill Guide)
German legal citation
Dutch legal citation follows the Leidraad voor juridische auteurs[5] (commonly known as Leidraad)
United Kingdom
The Oxford Standard for Citation of Legal Authorities (commonly known as OSCOLA) is the modern authority on citation of United Kingdom legislation. Guidance for UK government drafters is provided in Statutory Instrument Practice.[6]

U. S. legal citation follows one of:

A number of U.S. states have adopted individual public domain citations standards.[7]

See also


  1. Retrieved November 29, 2009.  Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  2. Mohammad Hamdaqa and A. Hamou-Lhadj, "Citation Analysis: An Approach for Facilitating the Understanding and the Analysis of Regulatory Compliance Documents", In Proc. of the 6th International Conference on Information Technology, Las Vegas, USA
  3. "E-Discovery Special Report: The Rising Tide of Nonlinear Review". Hudson Global. Retrieved 1 July 2012.  by Cat Casey and Alejandra Perez
  4. "What Technology-Assisted Electronic Discovery Teaches Us About The Role Of Humans In Technology - Re-Humanizing Technology-Assisted Review". Forbes. Retrieved 1 July 2012. 
  5. "Kluwer - Leidraad". Retrieved 2013-11-16. 
  6. "Statutory Instrument Practice – 4th edition". OPSI website. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office. November 2006. pp. 23–24 (s. 2.7) and 25–28 (s. 2.11). Retrieved 2009-10-17.  External link in |work= (help)
  7. "Universal Citation.". Retrieved 2008-08-07. 

External links

  • Tanbook (New York State Official Reports Style Manual)