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.
California Court Decisions: (Cal, Cal App., Cal App. 3d, etc.):
Name v. Name, Legal Citation (Issuing Court Abbreviation year)
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)
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. 3
Generally, you can leave out the court abbreviation if the Reporter Abbreviation (in the Legal Citation) clearly identifies a specific court. (E.g., if that abbreviation is for a reporter series that covers only one specific court.) When an issuing court abbreviation is needed, for state courts use the state abbreviation (Bluebook Table 10) and the court name (listed in the Bluebook Table 7), as listed by Professor D. H. Kaye at PennState. For further assistance, see the Detroit Mercy Law guide to Bluebook citation.
In all cases, make sure to include the year.
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).
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).
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.):
Name v. Name, Legal Citation (Issuing Court Abbreviation., year)
Christopher S. v. Stanislaus County Office of Education, 384 F.3d 1205 (9th Cir., 2004)
Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965)
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.
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.
Click here for US District Courts
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 #.
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 #.
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 (7th ed.). Call no: BF76.7 .P83 2020
Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Call no: BF76.7 .P83 2010
Other Useful Sources
Citing a Law Review Article in APA Style (Westlaw)
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)