Finding Cases and Journal Articles

Journal Articles

Legal citations to articles in law journals (also called law reviews) should look familiar and be relatively easy to find. They will have:

  • author's full name
  • title of article
  • volume number of law journal
  • abbreviated name of law journal
  • page number on which article begins
  • date of publication
  • Example: Jeffrey Malken, Stolen Photographs: Personality, Publicity, and Privacy, 75 TEX.L.REV. 779 (1997).

Cases

However, before you can find cases (also called opinions or decisions), you need to be able to interpret legal citations. Case citations for the U.S. Supreme Court use the form:

  • case name
  • volume number
  • case reporter abbreviation
  • page number
  • year

Example:

Alamo Land & Cattle Co. v. Arizona, 428 U.S. 295 (1976)

  • Alamo Land & Cattle Co. v. Arizona = case name
  • 428 = volume number
  • U.S. = case reporter abbreviation
  • 295 = page number
  • 1976 = year case was decided

So the 1976 case Alamo Land & Cattle Co. v. Arizona is found in volume 428 of the United States Reports. It begins on page 295.

Case citations for other courts use the form:

  • case name
  • volume number
  • case reporter abbreviation
  • page number
  • name of the court
  • year

Example:

Zim v. Western Publishing Co., 573 F.2d 1318 (5th Cir. 1978)

  • Zim v. Western Publishing Co. = case name
  • 573 = volume number
  • F.2d = case reporter abbreviation
  • 1318 = page number
  • 5th Cir. = name of the court
  • 1978 = year case was decided

So the 1978 case Zim v. Western Publishing Co. is found in volume 573 of the Federal Reporter, 2nd series. It begins on page 1318. It is a case from the United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

While the case name is self-evident, translating the case reporter abbreviations can be tricky. Common abbreviations are:

Case Reporter Abbreviations
AbbreviationTitleNotes
U.S.United States ReportsThe official reporter for United States Supreme Court cases.
S. Ct.Supreme Court ReporterAn unofficial reporter for United States Supreme Court cases.
L.Ed. or L.Ed. 2dLawyers' Edition, United States Supreme Court ReportsAnother unofficial reporter for United States Supreme Court cases.
F., F.2d, or F.3dFederal Reporter, 1st, 2nd, or 3rd SeriesThe federal reporter for the United States Circuit Courts of Appeal.
F. Supp or F. Supp.2dFederal Supplement, 1st or 2nd seriesThe federal reporter for the United States District Courts opinions.
S.W., S.W.2d, or S.W.3dSouth Western Reporter, 1st, 2nd, or 3rd Series1 of the 7 regional reporters. Has cases from the highest state-level courts in Texas (also AR, KY, MO, and TN).

If you have trouble interpreting a legal citation or reporter abbreviation, you may refer to:

Case Law Research Guide
Clear and succint explanations from Georgetown Law Library. Includes general information on reporters and also parallel citations.
Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations Used in American Law Books
Compiled by Doris M. Bieger. 2nd ed. Buffalo, NY: W.S. Hein, 1985.
KF 246 .B46 1985 (Reference)

Citing Cases and Journal Articles

For any class assignment, students should follow the citation style assigned by the instructor. For any gray areas in the rules of citation, the only authority is the instructor's preference.

Journal Articles

If you are citing an article in a law journal/law review:

  • Use the style manual for your assignment (APA, MLA, etc.) and follow the example for a journal article.
  • Quick tips are available from the Cornette Library's Citation Basics.
  • Example of APA citation for article in law journal, issues paginated continuously:
    • Malken, J. (1997). Stolen photographs: Personality, publicity, and privacy. Texas Law Review, 77, 779-835.
  • Example of MLA citation for article in law journal (for MLA, always provide issue number, if available):
    • Malken, Jeffrey. "Stolen Photographs: Personality, Publicity, and Privacy." Texas Law Review 77.4 (1997): 779-835. Print.

For a law journal article found in the databases LexisNexis Academic and WestlawNext (and sometimes Legal Collection), citations will be as exemplified below, since DOIs (Digital Object Identifiers) are not assigned:

  • Example of APA citation for article in law journal, issues paginated continuously and retrieved from LexisNexis Academic:
    • Malken, J. (1997). Stolen photographs: Personality, publicity, and privacy. Texas Law Review, 77, 779-835. Retrieved from http://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/lnacademic
  • Example of APA citation for article in law journal, issues paginated continuously and retrieved from WestlawNext:
    • Malken, J. (1997). Stolen photographs: Personality, publicity, and privacy. Texas Law Review, 77, 779-835. Retrieved from https://1.next.westlaw.com/Search/Home.html
  • Example of APA citation for article in law journal, issues paginated continuously and retrieved from Legal Collection (EBSCO):
    • Malken, J. (1997). Stolen photographs: Personality, publicity, and privacy. Texas Law Review, 77, 779-835. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com
  • Example of MLA citation for article in law journal and retrieved from a database:
    • Malken, Jeffrey. "Stolen Photographs: Personality, Publicity, and Privacy." Texas Law Review 77.4 (1997): 779-835. Business Source Complete. Web. 19 Jan. 2015.
  • Example of MLA citation for article in law journal and retrieved from a database that does not include issue numbers:
    • Malken, Jeffrey. "Stolen Photographs: Personality, Publicity, and Privacy." Texas Law Review 77 (1997): 779-835. LexisNexis Academic. Web. 19 Jan. 2015.

Cases

Generally, if you are citing a case, refer to the style manual for your assignment (APA, MLA, etc.) It will probably give some brief examples and refer you to The Bluebook. For instructions on how to cite legal sources properly, check:

The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation
Compiled by the editors of the Columbia Law Review, the Harvard Law Review, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, and the Yale Law Journal. 19th ed., 2010. Published by the Harvard Law Review Association.
KF 245 .B58 2010 (Reference)
  • The Bluepages are written for attorneys and law clerks using legal citations in court documents.
  • The Whitepages are written for use in academic writing, such as law journal and law review articles. One difference is that the Whitepages uses footnotes instead of in-text citations.
Bluebook Guide
A guide for beginners to the Bluebook; intended as a supplement. Would be most useful for a prelaw student.
Introduction to Basic Legal Citation (Online Ed. 2014)
Indexed to the 19th edition of the Bluebook, which is the standard used for most legal journals and is usually required by courts for briefs and memoranda. Also indexed to the 5th edition of the ALWD (Association of Legal Writing Directors) Guide to Legal Citation. ALWD rules now conform to Bluebook rules, but may be the better book in teaching legal citation rules to students.
The Greenbook: Texas Rules of Form
12th ed., 2006. Published by the Texas Law Review, University of Texas at Austin School of Law.
Z UA345.5 T312RUF 2010 (Documents - Texas)
  • The Greenbook will have detailed information on how to cite numerous Texas-specific publications. It follows recommended Bluebook style.

To see examples of case citations, you may refer to:

Basic Legal Citation
An in-depth list of examples from LII (Legal Information Institute).
Bluebook Legal Citations: Citing Court Cases
Brief overview and short list of examples from the University of Houston Downtown.
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