Skip to main content

Bluebook Citations: Primary Authorities

Guide to basic legal citations to the 20th ed. of The Bluebook.

Primary Authorities

What Are Primary Authorities?

Primary authority consists of the law itself, created by one branch of the government and expressed in constitutions, statutes, court decisions, administrative regulations and administrative decisions.

Every Citation Needs This

Punctuation at the end.  You can end a citation "sentence" with either a period or a semicolon.  Without punctuation, the citation is incomplete.

About Parentheticals

R 11 (page 118), R 12.5 (page 126)

These rules state that to cite constitutions or statutes in an online database, "give parenthetically the name of the database and information regarding the currency of the database as provided by the database itself."  [Emphasis added.] The next page (119 and 126) gives you some examples and patterns to follow.

What's the Correct Citation?

The People v. Shamrock Foods Company, 11 P. 3rd 956, 968 (California 2000). 

Of the choices, below, which one is closest to being a properly formed Bluebook citation?

What's the Correct Citation?
The People v. Shamrock Foods, 11 P. 3d 956, 968 (2000).: 0 votes (0%)
People v. Shamrock Foods, Inc., 11 P.3d 956, 968 (2000).: 3 votes (13.04%)
People v. Shamrock Foods Co., 11 P.3d 956, 968 (2000).: 3 votes (13.04%)
People v. Shamrock Foods Co., 11 P.3d 956, 968 (Cal. 2000).: 17 votes (73.91%)
Total Votes: 23

Commonly Cited Primary Authorities

Citations are to the 20th edition of The Bluebook, A Uniform System of Citation.

Constitutions B11, R11, T10, T16

Cite the United States Constitution, 14th Amendment, Section 2.

CORRECT CITATION:  U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 2.

Cite the Hawaii Constitution, Article 9, Section 1, Clause 2.

CORRECT CITATION:  Haw. Const. art. IX, § 1, cl. 2.

SHORT CITE NOTE:  According to Rule 11, Constitutions, you cannot use a short cite other than Id. for constitutions.


Statutes in Print B12, B12.1.2, R12, T1.3

NOTE:  Nothing is underlined in a statute citation.  Section is indicated by the § symbol.  See also Rule 3.3.

Cite Title 21 of the United States Code, section 331(a) from the official United States Code in print.

CORRECT CITATION:  21 U.S.C. § 331(a) (2012).

NOTE:  The official United States Code is published every six years (e.g. 2000, 2006, 2012). Thus, a date parenthetical with (2014) in it is instantly incorrect.  It could possibly be (2012 & Supp. 2014), but it could not be (2014) alone.

SHORT CITE:  21 U.S.C. § 331(a) OR § 331(a).

Statutes online in WestlawNext R12.5, T1.3

"When citing a code contained in an electronic database, give parenthetically the name of the database and information regarding the currency of the database as provided by the database itself." R. 12.5

Rule 12.5 does not offer an example of a statute found on WestlawNext.  In former editions, West, Westlaw, meant the online database, but Westlaw has since been retired.  You can search court documents in your jurisdiction to see if they have a local rule for it, or you can choose one of the following:  (West, WestlawNext ...), (WestlawNext ...).

Same statute found on Westlaw in the United States Code Annotated, a West product.

CORRECT CITATION:  21 U.S.C.A. § 331(a) (West, WestlawNext through P.L. 113-9 (excluding P.L. 113-4)).

SHORT CITE:  21 U.S.C.A. § 331(a) (WestlawNext).

NOTE:  West, WestlawNext indicates that this statute was found online while "West" without WestlawNext indicates a print product. 

Statutes online in Lexis Advance R12.5, T1.3

Rule 12.5 does not offer an example of a statute found on Lexis Advance.  In former editions, LEXIS, all caps meant the online database.  You can search court documents in your jurisdiction to see if they have a local rule for it, or you can choose one of the following:  (LEXIS, Lexis Advance ...), (Lexis Advance ...).

Same statute found on Lexis Advance in the United States Code Service, a LexisNexis product.

CORRECT CITATION:  21 U.S.C.S. § 331(a) (Lexis Advance through P.L. 113-11).

SHORT CITE:  21 U.S.C.S. § 331(a) (Lexis Advance) OR § 331(a) (Lexis Advance).

NOTE:  LEXIS (all caps) and Lexis Advance indicate that the statute was found online, while "LexisNexis" indicates a print product.


Cases B10, R10, T1, T6, T10

Cite to page 707 of a 1995 case between Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of the Interior, et al. versus Sweet Home Chapter of Communities for a Great Oregon.  It is found in volume 515 of United States Reports beginning on page 687. 

CORRECT CITATION:  Babbitt v. Sweet Home Chapter of Cmtys. for a Great Or., 515 U.S. 687, 707 (1995).

CORRECT CITATION:  Babbitt v. Sweet Home Chapter of Cmtys. for a Great Or., 515 U.S. 687, 707 (1995).

NOTE:  Both citations, above, are correct.  One can either underline or italicize the case name.  Just be consistent.  See page 3, Typeface, and Rule B2.

Cite to a 2008 case from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals between Deborah Fellner and Tri-Union Seafoods, L.L.C.  It is found in volume 539 of the Federal Reporter Third Series and begins on page 237.  The material we are citing is found on pages 240 and 241.

CORRECT CITATION:  Fellner v. Tri-Union Seafoods, 539 F.3d 237, 240-41 (3d Cir. 2008).

CORRECT CITATION:  Fellner v. Tri-Union Seafoods, 539 F.3d 237, 240-41 (3d Cir. 2008).  

NOTE:  According to Rule 10.2.1(h) Business firm designations, the L.L.C. is omitted in the case name.  No space between F. and 3d according to Rule 6.1(a) Spacing.