Legal writing requires citation to a variety of sources. A frequently cited type of source is a statute. A statute is defined as “A law enacted by a legislative body—such as the United States Congress.” In the United States, statutes are a primary source of law.
In this Bluebook Cheat Sheet, we’ve compiled several statute Bluebook citation examples and explanations for a few of the more common types of statutes that are cited. This guide is only a general reference and starting point and should be used in conjunction with LegalEase or the Bluebook.
While a statute citation can look considerably different under different circumstances (jurisdiction, code being cited, etc.), the above example shows the basic components of a simple Bluebook statute citation. The components are:
- Title number
- Abbreviation of code
- Section number
- Code year
A collection of laws, when organized into a Code, can be organized, classified, and divided further by subject matter into “titles”. The United States Code, referenced in the above example, is organized into titles that are named and numbered. This example citation is referring to “Title 7. Agriculture” of the United States Code.
Codes are “collection of laws, rules or regulations that are systematically arranged”. The official code for U.S. federal statutes is the United States Code and it is abbreviated as “U.S.C.”. This is seen in the above example.
Because a statute citation should help the reader locate the statute if needed, the number of the section and an accompanying section symbol (§) is included in the citation.
According to the Bluebook, the code’s year of publication should be included in the citation. A common error to avoid is ensuring that the year included is the code’s publication year and not the year the statute was enacted
Citing a Federal Statute
The United States Code (abbreviated as “U.S.C.”) is the official code for U.S. federal statutes. According to the Office of the Law Revision Counsel, “a complete new edition of the Code is printed . . . every six years, and five annual cumulative supplements (designated as Supplements I through V) are printed in intervening years.” We will discuss these supplements later on in the guide. But for now, here is an example of a Bluebook federal statute citation to the United States Code:
The official code (United States Code) and it’s supplements are published relatively infrequently when compared to how often lawmakers change, add to, and remove from the law. So, publishers like West Publishing and LexisNexis publish unofficial versions of the code (United States Code Annotated and United States Code Service, respectively) throughout the year with the relevant updates.
Here is an example of a Bluebook federal statute citation, cited to West’s United States Code Annotated:Here is an example of a Bluebook federal statute citation, cited to LexisNexis’s United States Code Service:
Citing a State Statute
When creating a Bluebook state statute citation, the Bluebook states that you should give preference to an official state code, when available. If the official state code is not available, you should cite the state statute to an unofficial code. There are extensive rules in the Bluebook covering appropriate abbreviations to use and the order of priority that should be followed when a particular statute is published in multiple codes. Additionally, the elements of a state statute citation can vary based upon the particular state. Here is an example of a Bluebook state statute citation, cited to an official state code:
Here is an example of a Bluebook state statute citation, cited to an unofficial state code:
Names, Pocket Parts, and Supplements
There are circumstances in which the Bluebook dictates that the name of a statute should be included in the statute citation. For instance, if the statute has a name that it is commonly known as (see: Cornell Law School’s Table of Popular Names), the name would be included in the citation. Another circumstance in which you would include the name of a statute is if the name of the statute is particularly relevant to the writing containing the citation. Below is an example of a Bluebook statute citation that includes the name of the statute:
Pocket Parts and Supplements
It is common for a code to not be published every year. As a result, government agencies and publishers release additional materials to keep compilations, such as codes, up to date with ever-changing sets of statutes. These additional materials come in the form of “annual cumulative supplements” (in the case of the official United States Code), and pocket parts and supplements (in the case of unofficial codes).
The following example shows the case where a statute is amended entirely and only appears in its full, current version in an annual cumulative supplement to the United States Code:
There are also circumstances where legislatures only partially alter a statute. As a result, the statute, in one form or another, appears in both the official code and in the supplement. The Bluebook requires this fact to be indicated in the statute citation, as follows:
This guide serves as a basic introduction and a reference to check back in with over time. The reality is that the Bluebook contains dozens of additional rules, complexities, and factors that you need to consider when creating a Bluebook statute citation. The LegalEase Bluebook Citation Generator is designed to make the process as simple as possible for you while producing a completely accurate statute citation - no matter how complex. Try a free trial at LegalEase today. Let us make your life just a little easier.