When looking for legal materials, first determine the jurisdiction and branch of government. Who has jurisdiction (is it a Federal, state or local issue)? Then, decide if the answer can be found within a statute, court opinion (case) or regulation. Once you have determined the answers to these questions, you can look for the answer within the appropriate legal resource:
Primary Sources - the rules of law. Include the version of the Federal or state government's Constitution, statutes, court opinions (case law) or administrative regulations that those jurisdictions recognize as having what is known as "primary authority."
While there are a variety of types of laws that govern, there is a hierarchy to the U.S. legal system.
The legal pyramid is as follows:
III. Administrative Regulations (carry the same weight as statutes)
IV. Case law (court opinions)
Secondary Sources - these sources provide analysis and commentary about aforementioned primary sources. These are helpful in locating and explaining the law.
Bluebook Formatting Guidelines
Basic Case Citation
The format of a case citation is dependent on the following factors:
Anatomy of a Case Citation
If you are directing your reader to a specific quotation or holding, you would point to the "pinpoint" in the case by including a comma and the location. The pinpoint is inserted after the first page of the reporter number. If you are generally referring to a citation, referring to the citation for background support, or including it within your reference page, you would not use a pinpoint citation.
Basic Statutory Citation Format
The United States Code (U.S.C.) is the official code for federal statutes. The unofficial codes for federal statutes include: United States Code Annotated (U.S.C.A.) and United States Code Service (U.S.C.S.). Most often, you will need to cite to either of these unofficial codes because Congress enacts new laws and amends and repeals existing laws frequently. The current version of the statute will not appear in the United States Code until the official publication is updated with the cumulative supplement. A new print edition is published every six years and is updated annually through cumulative supplements.
The format of a statutory citation is dependent on the following factors:
25 U.S.C. § 1 (2020)
Though this citation format is similar to the federal statutory citation, each format varies by state.
Basic Bluebook Format for California Statutes
To determine the subject of the code, look at the title of the section within Westlaw or Lexis Advance. *Please refer to The Bluebook for the format to cite statutory codes on Westlaw, Lexis, and other commercial databases.
Basic Regulation Citation Format
Federal Register Format
Name of Regulation, Federal Register (abbreviation) page number (Date of Issue) (to be codified at Title number C.F.R. pt. #)
Food Labeling: Reference Daily Intakes, Fed. Reg. 427 (January 4, 1994) (to be codified at 21 CFR 101)
Code of Federal Regulations Format
The citation to a U.S. federal regulation includes the following elements:
For example, to cite the section of the code that identifies the definitions of horse protection regulations, you would cite the following:
9 C.F.R. § 11.1 (2020)
To create a Bluebook citation within Westlaw: