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Guide to Sources of U.S. Law

Research guide to finding basic sources of United States law.


Full Citation


Legal citations follow a uniform sequence.  The first name (plaintiff) refers to the party bringing the court action.  The second name (defendant) is the party against whom the action is directed.  This is followed by the volume number, abbreviated name of the reporter series where the case is published, and page number on which the case begins. Cases are often published in more than one reporter series.  Parallel citations are separated by commas.

"A full case citation includes five basic components: (1) the name of the case; (2) the published source in which the case may be found; (3) a parenthetical indicating the court and year of decision; (4) other parenthetical information, if any; and (5) the subsequent history of the case, if any:"*

  • Example: Herrick v. Lindley, 391 N.E. 2d 719, 73 (Ohio 1979).


*The Bluebook: a Uniform System of Citation. Cambridge, MA : Harvard Law Review Association, 2005.

Common Legal Case Reporter Abbreviations

C.A.          Federal District Court of Appeals

F              Federal Reporter

F.2d          Federal Reporter, second series

F.Supp      Federal Supplement

N.E.          North Eastern Reporter

N.W.         North Western Reporter

P.              Pacific Reporter

S.             Southern Reporter

S Ct.         Supreme Court Reporter

S.E.          South Eastern Reporter

S.W.         South Western Reporter

U.S.          United States Reports

U.S.L.W.    United States Law Week

See Bieber's Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations (Ref. KF 246.B46 1988) for other abbreviations.