In the United States, constitutions and statutes are structured in a way that allows citation of relevant provisions without regard to how any particular version or edition has been printed. In this fundamental sense, they are and long have been vendor- and medium-neutral. That is because articles, sections, clauses, and subsections rather than volumes and page numbers identify specific passages. This holds for such similar legal materials as local ordinances, on the one hand, and international agreements, on the other. While these several types of legal materials share this structural quality, constitutions and statutes differ dramatically from one another in one key respect frequency of change. The compiled enactments of Congress and the legislatures of the states are constantly subject to amendment. This reality raises a risk, albeit not a large one in most situations, that the text of the statute to which a writer refers and the text consulted by a reader following the writer's citation, at some later date, may be different. The risk is a consequence of the possibility of intervening legislative change per se and also by the amount of time it took the respective publishers or disseminators to enter the change in their statutory compilations. Addressing this possibility calls for both writer and reader to pay serious attention to the date of the compilation relied on by the writer. That information must be delivered in some non-ambiguous fashion by a statutory citation, while references to provisions of the U.S. Constitution or a decision of the Supreme Court have, in the typical case, no reason to indicate the currency of the edition, collection, or compilation relied upon by the writer.
The relevant citation principles follow; section 3-300 provides both basic examples and samples from all major U.S. jurisdictions.
2-310 Examples Window (restore)
Principle: A citation to a provision of either the federal or a state constitution consists of two elements:
(a) - The name of the constitution
(The name consists of the abbreviation of the jurisdiction e.g., U.S. for United States, N.Y. for New York (§ 4-500) and "Const.") «e.g.»
(b) - The cited part
(Parts often include articles (abbreviated "art."), amendments (abbreviated "amend.") and clauses (abbreviated "cl."), in addition to sections (§).) «e.g.»
No punctuation separates the name of the constitution from the first part identifier; commas separate successive subparts. Nothing is italicized or underlined. No date is required unless the citation is to a provision or version of the constitution no longer in effect «e.g.».
Statutory provisions are, whenever possible, cited to compilations. For any single U.S. jurisdiction, there is usually a single compilation scheme, ordering sections into topically clustered units, even though there may be multiple versions of the code or compilation, print and electronic, public and commercial. Until the recent proliferation of electronic sources, citation norms favored citation to one particular print compilation for each jurisdiction. Most citation manuals still appear to do so, but practice is rapidly adjusting to the reality that electronic compilations are in general more up-to-date and therefore more widely used than print ones, that in most jurisdictions no single version is universally relied upon, and that up-to-date print compilations from other jurisdiction are maintained in very few law libraries.
2-320(1) Examples Window (restore)
Principle 1: The core of a citation to a codified federal statutory provision consists of three elements:
Element (a) - The title number followed by a space and "U.S.C." (for "United States Code") «e.g.»
Element (b) - The section number preceded by the section symbol and space «e.g.»
Element (c) - An indication of the currency of the compilation relied upon, in parentheses. (With print compilations, this has traditionally been simply the year the volume or base volume and updating supplement relied upon were published «e.g.». With electronic compilations, updated at least annually, this can be the year of the compilation relied upon. If the cited statutory provisions has been or may be volatile, an even more precise current "through" date is desirable whether print or electronic media are used. The precise form this takes will be governed by the form in which the compilation relied upon presents currency information. For example, Westlaw furnishes the effective date of the most recent amendment to the cited provision included in its compiled version rather than a "through" date.) «e.g.»
No punctuation separates these elements. Nothing is italicized or underlined.
¡But see § 2-335!
2-320(2) Examples Window (restore)
Principle 2: The core of a citation to a codified state statutory provision consists of three elements:
Element (a) - The name of code (abbreviated) «e.g.»
Element (b) - The number of the section or part, using the division identifiers of the jurisdiction's code (In some states major divisions of the code are designated by name rather than by number.) «e.g.»
Element (c) - An indication of the currency of the compilation relied upon, in parentheses. (With print compilations, this has traditionally been simply the year the volume or base volume and updating supplement relied upon were published. With electronic compilations, updated at least annually, this can be the year of the compilation relied upon. If the cited statutory provisions have been or may be volatile, an even more precise current "through" date is desirable whether print or electronic media are used. The precise form this takes will be governed by the form in which the compilation relied upon presents currency information. Westlaw furnishes the effective date of the most recent amendment to the cited provision included in its compiled version rather than a "through" date.) «e.g.»
¡But see § 2-335!
2-330(1) Examples Window (restore)
Principle 1: If possible, the reference should be to the jurisdiction's designated "official" codification such as the United States Code or Iowa Code. If an unofficial commercial codification is relied upon, it is customary to use that product's branded abbreviation if different from the official code (U.S.C.A. or U.S.C.S. rather than U.S.C.; Iowa Code Ann. rather than Iowa Code) and to place the publisher's name, brand, or online source (abbreviated) ahead of the currency information in the parentheses «e.g.».
¡But see § 2-335!
2-330(2) Examples Window (restore)
Principle 2: The reader of a statutory citation will expect that it refers to the statute as currently in force unless the reference says otherwise. However, because statutes are continually subject to amendment and compilations are put together at different times and frequencies, it is useful even with a reference to a statute currently in force to be clear about the nature or source of the currency data.
If the statute appears in a print compilation volume last published in 1998 and research indicates the statute has not been amended, conventional practice would be to place 1998 as the year in parenthesis even though print supplements, pocket parts, or much more recent online compilations were consulted to verify the provision's currency «e.g.».
Only if the statute had been amended since the principal volume of a cited compilation was published would conventional practice call for the citation to refer to a supplement or a more recent electronic compilation. It would have the parenthetical read (Supp. 2012) if the writer relied on a print supplement or pocket part published sometime in 2009 for the full provisions of the statute, as amended, or (1996 & Supp. 2012) if the reader would have to bring the supplement or pocket part together with the principal volume for the full text of the reference «e.g.». Use of an up-to-date electronic compilation simplifies the presentation of currency information «e.g.».
¡But see § 2-335!
2-335(1) Examples Window (restore)
Point 1: Both The Bluebook and the ALWD Citation Manual direct a writer to cite to a publicly produced or supervised statutory compilation (generally referred to as an "official" code) if the provisions referred to are contained in it. In other cases, conventional practice, encouraged by the major publishers and reflected in both citation guides, is to identify the publisher of a commercially produced statutory compilation, and, with the two principal annotated versions of the United States Code, to use abbreviations of their brand names (U.S.C.A. and U.S.C.S.). Especially, as sources and versions have multiplied, however, usage has moved toward the citing of statutes by means of their generic or "official" designation without regard to the source actually used by the writer. If followed rigorously, this approach involves dropping the superfluous notation ("Ann."), which simply indicates that the code relied upon was annotated, and leaving the publisher's name or brand out of the parenthesis containing the currency information «e.g.». The existence or nonexistence of annotations in the compilation relied on by the writer has no bearing on the statutory language itself, and, as a consequence of the shifts in ownership and branding that have occurred in commercial law publishing and the divergence between print and electronic versions of compilations bearing the same brand, references to "the publisher" are no longer straightforward.
While this is the practice of many appellate courts, neither The Bluebook nor the ALWD Citation Manual goes so far. While both remove branding elements from the name of state (but not federal) statutory compilations, they still include references to the publisher in the following parenthical. The ALWD Citation Manual does so in all cases where multiple print editions exist, even if one of them is designated "official" by the state. The Bluebook omits designating the publisher when the version has been designated "official" by the state. Both manuals include "Ann." when the cited code is annotated.
To illustrate, the official compilation of Indiana statutes is cited "Ind. Code § x (year)." According to The Bluebook citations to the commercial compilation of Indiana statutes long known as "Burns Indiana Statutes Annotated" should take the form "Ind. Code Ann. § x (LexisNexis year)" while those to "West's Annotated Indiana Code" should read "Ind. Code Ann. § x (West year)." The ALWD Citation Manual treats the latter identically but, reflecting what turns out to have been a short-lived branding strategy of Reed Elsevier (the corporate parent of LexisNexis) would have citations to "Burns" (and U.S.C.S. plus many more) attributed to "Lexis." Currently, however, the online versions of "Burns" show the parent brand "LexisNexis" prominently and indicate that copyright is held by Matthew Bender & Company, "a member of the LexisNexis Group." Meanwhile, Thomson Reuters has returned to placing the brand "West" on its legal publications and services that, for a time, gave greater prominence to the Thomson name. Finally, the ALWD Citation Manual includes the publisher "Lexis" in citations to the Alaska Statutes ("Alaska Stat. § x (Lexis year)"), but The Bluebook does not ("Alaska Stat. § x (year)") since that compilation is official.
2-335(2) Examples Window (restore)
Point 2: It is the practice in the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Courts of Appeals, and a majority of state courts to omit currency information from statute citations altogether unless the provisions have been or are likely to be subject to amendment. Further, as already noted in § 2-320, methods of indicating the currency of a cited statutory compilation are in flux. Traditional practice, based on the updating frequency of print compilations, called only for the year of the compilation cited. Regularly updated electronic versions of state statutes generally provide information on their cutoff or currency date with greater precision. Often this is specified not as a date, per se, but in terms of a "legislative event" the last included enactment or the end of a session. The AALL Universal Citation Guide argues that the addition of this more exact currency information to the year is a more effective measure than year of publication or compilation alone in alerting the reader to the risk that the version of the statute he or she consults may be different, by virtue of legislative change, from that referenced by the citation «e.g.». However, this recommendation has yet to be widely adopted.
2-335(3) Examples Window (restore)
Point 3: One area of citation practice on which there is widespread state variation is the abbreviation of the state's own code. The abbreviations used on the examples in this introduction (§ 3-320), like the two dominant national citation references, are full enough to distinguish unambiguously between a citation to a provision of the Alaska Statutes and a section of the codes of Alabama, Arizona and Arkansas. Indeed, a standard and recurring component of state statute and regulation citations is an abbreviation of the state name. When context leaves little or no doubt about which state's statutes are being cited, including importantly briefs submitted to and decisions rendered by the courts of a particular state, significant citation space can saved with little or no loss by having the state name supplied by implication «e.g.». In decisions of the Alaska Supreme Court and briefs submitted to it, "AS" is commonly used instead of "Alaska Stat."; in Kentucky it is understood that "KRS" stands for "Kentucky Revised Statutes" and not statutes of the state of Kansas. At the extreme, this form of state-specific citation dialect leaves off all explicit reference to the state. A reference in an Ohio brief to "R.C." is understood as referring to Ohio's "Revised Code"; one in a New York brief to a section of the "General Municipal Law" and one in a California brief to a section of the "Penal Code" are understood as referring to the respective state's codified statutes.
2-340(1) Examples Window (restore)
Special Case 1 Session Laws: Don't cite a statute to the session laws (the compiled enactments of a legislative body during a particular session) if a codified version will serve your purposes. This principle confines session law citations to:
A session law reference consists of: the name of the statute (or if not named "Act of [date]"), its public law number ("Pub. L. No.") or equivalent state designation, and the source. In the case of a recent enactment this will most likely be electronic «e.g.». See § 2-110. Where a print source is used the reference consists of a volume or year number followed by the name of the publication, abbreviated ("Stat." or "U.S.C.C.A.N." in the case of a federal act) and a page number «e.g.». The year of enactment, in parentheses, is included in cases where that information is not already part of one of the other citation components.
¡But see § 2-335!
2-340(2) Examples Window (restore)
Special Case 2 Bills: Bills are cited either when they support a point about the legislative history of an enactment or when the reference concerns proposed legislation that was not enacted.
2-340(3) Examples Window (restore)
Special Case 3 Named Acts: Some statutes are commonly referred to by name, and in some of these cases, section references from the original legislation are still widely used. Such references should never substitute for a core reference to the legislation as codified, «e.g.» but they can be added to it.
Special Case 4 The Internal Revenue Code: An important exception to the general norms for citation of federal statutes allows (but does not require) references to the Internal Revenue Code to be in the form: I.R.C. § ___. This is a substitute for 26 U.S.C. § ___ (2006). So long as it is clear from the context that the citation refers to the current tax code, the current year or "through date" need not be included.
2-340(5) Examples Window (restore)
Special Case 5 Uniform Acts and Model Codes: When a uniform act or model act or code has been adopted by a state and is being referred to as the law of that state, it is cited like any other state law. When a reference is to the uniform law or model code apart from its adoption and interpretation in a particular state, the citation should consist of the name of the uniform law or code (as abbreviated), section number, and the year that law or code (or major subpart) was promulgated or last amended «e.g.». In the case of uniform laws a parallel citation to the Uniform Laws Annotated (U.L.A.) may be helpful «e.g.».
2-350 Examples Window (restore)
Ordinances governing cities, towns, or counties are cited like statutes. Just as the standard form for a citation to a state statute includes the name of the state (abbreviated), an ordinance citation is prefaced by the name of the political subdivision it governs «e.g.».
2-360 Examples Window (restore)
Principle 1: The core of a citation to a treaty, international convention, or other international agreement consists of three elements:
Element (a) - The name of the treaty or agreement «e.g.»
Element (b) - The date of signing or approval «e.g.»
Element (c) - A source for the text likely to be accessible to the reader «e.g.»
Principle 2: Three additional elements may be appropriate:
Element (a) - Conventions that are the product of an international organization should either include the organization's name as part of the name of the agreement or be preceded by that name. «e.g.»
Element (b) - So long as there are no more than three parties to the agreement, their names (abbreviated) should be listed, set off by commas and separated by hyphens, following the agreement's name. «e.g.»
Element (c) - When citing to a portion of the agreement, the cited subdivision, as designated in the agreement, should be included directly following the treaty name and parties, if listed. «e.g.»