Citing Legal Materials in APA Style

The 6th edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (2010) outlines the citation style for legal materials in the Appendix to Chapter 7 (pp. 216 – 224).  For court decisions, statutes, codes and other legal publications, APA uses the formats outlined in The Bluebook:  A Uniform System of Citation. Below are suggested formats for common types of legal publications (California and federal sources).


In Text Citations

 

Court cases:   (Griswold v. Connecticut, 1965)

The APA Style Blog indicates to put the case name in italics for the in-text citation.

 

Statutes (named):    (Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 1974)

Statutes (no name):  (18 U.S.C. § 2258)

If the name of the law is not available, some authors only include the legal citation in parentheses the text – e.g. (18 U.S.C. § 2258) – but exclude the source from the References list.  APA prefers identifying the name of the law and including an entry in the References list whenever possible.


References List

 

California Court Decisions (Cal, Cal App., Cal App. 3d, etc.):

Format:              

Name v. Name, Legal Citation (Issuing Court Abbreviation year)

Example Entries:   

People v. Stockton Pregnancy Control Medical Clinic, 203 Cal. App. 3d 225 (Cal. Ct. App. 3d 1988)

Tarasoff v. Regents of the University of California, 131 Cal. Rptr. 14 (Cal. 1976)

Notes:

Legal Citation = volume number Reporter Abbreviation page number 

Issuing Court Abbreviations:  California Supreme Court = Cal. , Court of Appeal of California (First/Second/Third Appellate District) = Cal. Ct. App. 1d, Cal. Ct. App. 2d, Cal. Ct. App. 3d

   See the Valparaiso Law School site for additional issuing court abbreviations.

    (If you cannot determine the official abbreviation for the  issuing court, some instructors prefer you abbreviate it yourself and some that you just leave it out.)

In all cases, make sure to include the year.

 

California Statutes:

Format 1 - State Code:    (usually preferred format, citing specific sections in one of the California Codes)        

Name of law (if available), State Abbreviation Code Abbreviation § section number(s) (Year if available).

Example Entry:

Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act, Cal. Penal Code § 11164 et seq.

 

Format 2 – Bill/Chapter:     (used primarily if new law updates many code sections instead of one)

Name of law, State Abbreviation Branch (Assemb. or S.) Bill number, Chapter number (Cal. Stat. Year).

Example Entry:   

California Fostering Connections to Success Act, Cal. Assemb. B. 12 (2010-2011), Chapter 559 (Cal. Stat. 2010).

 

Federal Court Decisions (US, Fed 2d, Fed. Supp., etc.):

Format:                  

Name v. Name, Legal Citation (Issuing Court Abbreviation., year)

Example Entries:           

Christopher S. v. Stanislaus County Office of Education, 384 F.3d 1205 (9th Cir., 2004)

Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965)

Explanations: 

The Christopher S. v. Stanislaus County Office of Education opinion was issued in 2004 by  the 9th Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, published in volume 384 of the 3rdFederal Reporter series, and starting on page 1205.

Griswold v. Connecticut is a U.S. Supreme Court opinion issued in 1965, published in volume 381 of United States Reports and starting on page 479.

Notes:

Legal Citation = volume number Reporter Abbreviation page number. 

Issuing Court Abbreviations:

California Supreme Court = Cal.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the nth Circuit = 1st Cir., 2nd Cir., 3rd Cir., 4th Cir., etc.

US District Courts, see Valporaiso Law School site

(If you cannot determine the official abbreviation for the  issuing court, some instructors prefer you abbreviate it yourself or skip it.  In all cases, make sure to include the year.)

 

Federal Statutes (USC, Pub L., Stat):

In-Text Citation:      Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 1974

If a formal name of the law is not available (e.g., there is only a U.S. Code citation),  some authors include the legal citation in the text only, e.g.:18 U.S.C. § 2258,  and exclude it from the References list. 

APA prefers the law be identified by name and entered into the References list whenever possible.  APA has information on finding the name of a law.

 

References List Format 1  (Name of law with US Code citation only):

Name of law, title # U.S.C. § section #.

Example Entry:

Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 1974, 42 USC §§5101–5106.

 

References List Format 2  (with Public Law and/or Statutes at Large information):

Name of law,  Pub. L. ##-##, volume Stat. page, codified as amended at title U.S.C. § section #.

Example Entry:   

Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 1974, Pub. L. 93-247, 88 Stat. 4, codified as amended at 42 U.S.C. §§5101–5106.

 

Full manual available in the Library:

Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.).
Call no: BF76.7 .P82 2010

 

Other Useful Sources

PDF Citing a Law Review Article in APA Style (Westlaw)

PDF  PDF version of this brief guide

APA Blog - Introduction to APA Style Legal References

APA Blog - Citing Court Decisions in APA Style

Introduction to Legal Reference (Peter Martin, Cornell University)

EasyBib   info

Online site provides basic citation formatting and management, but the options require you to know the legal abbreviations for the correct source (US, USC, Stat, etc.). Make sure to choose APA.  more information

 

Updated: February 2017, by John Brandt, Electronic Resources Librarian, CSU Stanislaus