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Legal Research

This is the legal research page with updated template

Citing Legal Sources in APA Style

In Text Citations

Any time a law or a court case is mentioned in the text of a paper, include an “in text citation” in the proper format (usually in parentheses). For court cases, that includes the main party names as well as the year – e.g. (Griswold v. Connecticut, 1965). For laws (statutes), the preferred form includes the name of the law and the year – e.g. (Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 1974). APA style requires anything cited briefly in the text (e.g. in parentheses) should also have a complete listing in the References list.

Court cases:

(Griswold v. Connecticut, 1965)

For court cases, in the text cite the party name v. party name and the year.

Statutes (named):

(Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 1974)

For statutes (bills passed by Congress or a state legislature and signed into law), in the text cite the name of the law and the year. The name of the law can sometimes be found at the beginning of the bill as signed into a law and/or the beginning of the appropriate section of the codified version.

Statutes (no name):

(18 U.S.C. § 2258)

It is not always possible to find the name of a law, especially if the citation is to the codified version (published in the U.S. Code or one of the California codes). To cite a law (e.g. section of the USC or a California code) without a name, some authors simply include the legal citation – e.g. (18 U.S.C. § 2258) – in the text and omit the entry from the References list.

Format: 

Party v. Party, Legal Citation (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)
People v. Stockton Pregnancy Control Medical Clinic, 203 Cal. App. 3d 225 (Cal. App. 3d 1988)
Tarasoff v. Regents of the University of California, 131 Cal. Rptr. 14 (Cal. 1976)

Legal Citation for a court case = volume # Reporter Abbreviation page number

384 = volume 384
F.3d = Federal Supplement 3rd Series
225 = page 225

Issuing Court: 
Abbreviation for court that issued ruling (Skip this if you are unable to find the abbreviation, but be sure to include the year.)

U.S. Supreme Court = U.S.
U.S. Court of Appeals for the nth Circuit = 1st Cir., 2nd Cir., etc.
U.S. District Court for California

Central District of California C.D. Cal.
Eastern District of California E.D. Cal.
Northern District of California N.D. Cal.
Southern District of California S.D. Cal. 

Format: 
Party v. Party, Legal Citation (Issuing Court Abbreviation year).

Notes:

Party names are displayed at top of court opinion in LexisNexis. (In Lexis, if the list of party names is overly long, in the upper left screen under “Show” choose “List” to display “short” party names.)
Legal Citation = volume # Reporter Abbreviation starting page #
Issuing Court: Abbreviation for court that issued ruling (Skip this if you are unable to find the abbreviation, but be sure to include the year.)

Abbreviations for Issuing Courts in California:

California Supreme Court = Cal.
Court of Appeal of California, First Appellate District = Cal. 1d.
Court of Appeal of California, First Appellate District = Cal. 2d.
Court of Appeal of California, Third Appellate District = Cal. 3d.

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

If a formal name of the law is not available (you only have a U.S. Code citation), some authors only include a citation in the text only, e.g.:18 U.S.C. § 2258

Format 1 – (US Code only):
Name of law, title # U.S.C. § section #.
Example Entry:

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

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.

Format 1 - Code (usually preferred format, using citation to 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 (use 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).

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