A citation is to a legal authority
what a URL is to a web page. For example, if all you had was the
name Roe v. Wade or Legal Research Guide you could find the
respective case or web page provided you had some help from either a digest
or table of cases (with respect to the case) or a search engine (with respect
to the web page). However, if you had 410
U.S. 113 or www.lawschoolhelp.com/research.htm
you could go directly to the case in any law library just as you could
go directly to the web page on the internet without any further assistance
or information. Hence, accurate citation of legal authorities in briefs
or pleadings that are filed with the court is essential.
Citation form for legal authorities is standardized
or uniform. Style Manuals set forth the form in which citations
are to be written. The most widely used style manual is A Uniform System
of Citation, (also known as "The Bluebook") published jointly by Harvard,
Yale, Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania Schools of Law. California
has its own style manual which is published by the State Office of Printing.
Examples of Citation Form
Roe v. Wade (1973) 410 U.S. 113, 93
S.Ct. 705, 35 L.Ed.2d 147.
In the above example 410 U.S. 113, refers
to the volume number of the United States Reports and page number where
the reported decision of Roe v. Wade can be found. 93 S.Ct. 705
gives the same information with respect to West's Supreme Court Reporter
and 35 L.Ed. 147, refers to the volume number and page where the case is
reported in Supreme Court Reports, Lawyer's Edition Second Series.
People v. Rogers (1971) 5 Cal.3d, 129,
95 Cal.Rptr. 601, 486 P.2d 129.
This refers to a California Supreme Court
case with parallel citations to West's California Reporter and Pacific
Reporter 2nd Series. Note the name of the case is always either italicized
The cited reference is to a California Court
of Appeal case which is reported in California Appellate Reports, Third
Series. Once again, the parallel citation is to West's California Reporter.
Only state supreme court cases are reported in Pacific Reporter hence,
no parallel cite to that series. This citation follows the protocal of
the Uniform System of Citation style manual by placing the year
the case was decided at the end of the citation. In the California Style
Manual the year the case was decided is placed between the name of
the case and the first reporter citation.
Official and Unofficial Reports
The first citation in a string is always to
the official citation. The "official citation" is the one either published
by the governmental authority or under contract to the governmental authority.
Unofficial citations are no less accurate. They are just published by private
publishers. The unofficial citations are called the parallel citations.
In keeping with the internet metaphor, think of the parallel citations
as being mirror sites; alternate locations where the same content is available.