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Legal Research

This is the legal research page with updated template

Reading a Legal Citation

Most legal citations consist of three parts: 

Volume number
Abbreviation of the name of the source
Page or section number ( § denotes section ).

For example, 163 U.S. 537 consists of the following:

163 = Volume #
U.S.
 = United States Reports (source publication)
537
 = starting page

"Reporters" publish the opinions issued by a court in an ongoing series of volumes. While court cases are usually reference by name (e.g. Roe vs. Wade), most legal materials also include a legal citation indicating where the decision is found in a specific reporter.

Example: 344 U.S. 1 cites the "Brown v. Board of Education" decision as published in United States Reports.

Parallel Citations
Citations to the same law or opinion published in different sources are called parallel citations. Many legal citations include references to several different sources. The first cite is considered the official or primary cite. The subsequent cites reference additional sources published by private companies which include additional editorial features. 

Example: Roe v. Wade (410 U.S. 113; 93 S. Ct. 705; 35 L. Ed. 2d 147)

Source Publication : Parallel Cite
United States Reports (U.S.) : 410 U.S. 113
Supreme Court Reporter (S.Ct.) : 93 S. Ct. 705
Lawyer's Edition (L.Ed.) : 35 L. Ed. 2d 147

Codes arrange all laws (e.g. statutes) or regulations by subject, and are cited by section (instead of page number). Section numbers are denoted by the § symbol.

Examples:

34 CFR §300.300
Volume 34
Code of Federal Regulations
Section 300.300

 

20 USC §1400
Volume 20
United States Code
Section 1400

Common Legal Citations

This table defines U.S. Supreme Court citations.
Abbreviation Example Type Source
US 546 U.S. 189 U.S. Supreme Court opinions United States Reports

Sup. Ct.

127 S. Ct. 2738 U.S. Supreme Court opinions Supreme Court Reports

 

This table defines citations for other federal cases.
Abbreviation Example Type Source

F.

F. 2d.

F. 3d.

22 F. 354 U.S. Appellate Court opinions

Federal Reporter

(2nd series)

(3rd series)

F. Supp.

F. Supp. 2d.

F. Supp. 3d.

246 F. Supp. 780 U.S. District Court opinions

Federal Supplement

(2nd series)

(3rd series)

 

This table defines citations for California cases.
Abbreviation Example Type Source

Cal.

Cal. 2d.

39 Cal. 4th 970 California Supreme Court opinions

California Reports

(2nd series)

P.

P. 2d.

140 P. 3d 775 State supreme court opinions - western states (including CA)

Pacific Reporter

(2nd series)

Cal. Rptr.

Cal. Rptr. 2d.

47 Cal. Rptr. 3d 467 California Supreme and Appellate Court opinions

California Reporter

(2nd series)

Cal. App.

Cal. App. 2d.

Cal. App. 3d.

Cal. App. 4th.

39 Cal. App. 4th 970 U.S. Appellate Court opinions

California Appellate Reports

(2nd series)

(3rd series)

(4th series)

 

This table defines citations for federal statutes.
Abbreviation Example Type Source
USC 42 USC § 5106 Codified statutes United States Code
USCA 42 USCA § 5106 Codified statutes United States Code Annotated
Stat. 49 Stat. 153 Statutes as written when passed into law United States Statutes at large

 

This table defines citations for federal regulations.
Abbreviation Example Type Source
FR 49 FR 10395 Proposed or final regulations Federal Register
CFR 8 CFR § 327.35 Codified regulations Code of Federal Regulations

 

This table defines citations for California statutes.
Abbreviation Example Type Source
Educ. Code Educ. Code § 3423 Codified Statutes California Codes
Cal. Edu. Code CAL Edu. Code § 3423 Codified Statutes with Annotations Deering's California Codes

 

This table defines citations for California regulations.
Abbreviation Example Type Source
Cal. Reg. Notice Register 2003 Cal. Reg. Notice Register 685 Proposed regulations California Regulatory Notice Register
CCR 8 CCR § 327.35 Codified regulations California Code of Regulations

 

This table defines citations for secondary sources.
Abbreviation Type Source
Cal. Jur. California law by topic California Jurisprudence
CJS Federal law by topic Corpus Juris Secundum
L. Rev. Law review article Harvard Law Review

 

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