Bluebook Basics for Briefs & Memoranda: A Brief Guide to Common Bluebooking Questions

General Organization of the Bluebook

The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (20th ed. 2015) is organized into three major parts. The Bluepages are found in first part of the Bluebook and are designed to guide practitioners in citations for non-academic legal materials such as court documents and legal memoranda.  

The second portion of the Bluebook, the white pages, provides guidance to authors of law review articles and other academic papers. The white pages set forth the Rules and contain detailed explanations and examples of the Rules. The white pages employ typeface conventions for law journal footnotes throughout. Rules 1-9 in the white pages present general citation standards; Rules 10-21 present rules of citation for specific types of authority.  

The Tables are found in the third portion of the Bluebook. The Tables provide comprehensive information on abbreviations and citation conventions for specific jurisdictions. Table 1 covers United States jurisdictions and Table 2 covers foreign jurisdictions. Additional tables provide abbreviations in several other categories.

The Bluebook has both a table of contents and a subject index. Review the table of contents to obtain a general understanding of the organization of the Bluebook. Use the index to locate specific information.   

Bluebooking for Practitioners and for Legal Writing

Begin by consulting the Quick Reference for practitioners on the inside back cover for examples of common citation forms (the Quick Reference on the inside front cover is for academic writing).  The Quick Reference further directs the user to greater detail found in the Bluepages, as well as to the corresponding Rules. If the Quick Reference does not seem to direct you to appropriate Bluepages or Rules, look at the Table of Contents or use the Index in the back of the Bluebook.

Use Table 1 to ensure that you are using the appropriate abbreviations and format for the jurisdiction. It is important to know that many jurisdictions have unique citation practices. Those practices take precedence over Bluebook rules when submitting documents to courts in those jurisdictions. (Bluepages Table 2). In New York, two extremely helpful resources for practitioners are the New York State Reporting Bureau’s Official New York Reports Style Manual (Reserve KFN 5075 .O33 2007) and St. John’s L. Rev. Ass’n, New York Rules of Citation (William H. Manz ed., 6th ed.) (Reserve KFN5074.5 .N48 2011 ).

Remember that the white pages of the Bluebook are directed toward law review footnotes. Beware - Typeface conventions for legal memoranda and court documents are different from those for law reviews. Check the inside back cover or the Bluepages to determine what should be underlined or italicized in legal memoranda.

Citation Tools on Lexis / Lexis Advance & WestlawNext

The major legal databases allow researchers to copy citations with an approximation of Bluebook style. Verify that the resulting citations conform with bluebooking conventions by checking the Bluebook.

Lexis and Lexis Advance: click ‘copy with cite’ (‘copy citation’) while viewing the document.

WestlawNext: offers alternatives to “Standard” citation format including AWLD and New York for practitioners. Select Preferences (bottom left on screen) to choose the preferred format.


Citation must be to the “preferred source” as indicated in the Bluebook. Each type of authority has a different preferred source. For example, for journals, books and other secondary sources, the preferred source is the original print version.

   Cases (R 10 & Bluepages B 10) (NOTE: The case name is underlined (or italicized) in briefs and memoranda.) The common elements of a case citation include party names, reporter volume, reporter name, first page of the case, and date of decision:


Bluebook Rule


Supreme Court

B 10

Dothard v. Rawlinson, 433 U.S. 321 (1977).

Federal courts of appeals

B 10

Nat’l Conference of Catholic Bishops v. Smith, 653 F.2d 535 (D.C. Cir. 1981).

Federal district courts

B 10

PAO Xiong v. City of Moorhead, 641 F. Supp. 2d 822 (D. Minn. 2009).

N. Y. Court of Appeals*

B 10

People v. Ohrenstein, 565 N.E.2d 493 (N.Y. 1990).


N.Y. Appellate Division *

B 10

Roe v. Bd. Of Trustees, 65 A.D.3d 1211 (2d Dep’t 2009).

N.Y. supreme courts*

B 10

Scott M. v. Ilona M., 31 Misc. 3d 353 (Sup. Ct., Kings County 2011).

Cases cited in New York Law Journal

R 10.1

Greater N.Y. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Wehinger Serv., N.Y.L.J., May 14, 1974 at 2 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. County, May 7, 1974).

Other states

B 10

Varnum v. Brien, 763 N.W.2d 862 (Iowa 2009).

Unreported cases

B 10.1.4

Oliverez v. Albitre, No. 1:09-cv-00352-LJO-SMS PC, 2010 U.S. District LEXIS 128243 (E.D. Cal. Dec. 6, 2010).

Unreported cases- internet

B 10.1.4

R 10.3.1

Matter of Murray F., No. 05-50562(U) (Sup. Ct. Kings Co. 2005),

*Note that the Bluebook requires citation to a regional reporter when available. This is contrary to the local New York rule which requires citation to the official New York reporter. Also note that the Official New York Style Manual, and consequently the state court system, utilizes brackets [] instead of parentheses ().

Statutes (R 12 & B 12):

Citations to statutes typically include the official name of the act, the published source of the act and a parenthetical indicating the year of publication for code citations or the year of passage for session laws. Citations generally should be to the statutes currently in force.

The official code is the preferred source for statutes, followed by the unofficial code (generally annotated), Lexis or Westlaw, looseleaf, or internet in that order.


Bluebook Rule


U.S. Constitution

R 11, B11

U.S. Const. art. III, §2.

Federal statutes - codes

R 12

35 U.S.C. §103(a) (2006).

35 U.S.C.A. §103(a) (West 2010).

Federal statutes – codes – citing main volume & pocket part / supplement

R 12

B 12

11 U.S.C.A. § 362 (West 2004 & Supp. 2012).

Federal Statutes- exact copy in PDF format on internet

R 12.2.1


35 U.S.C. §103(a) (2006).


Federal statutes – session laws

R 12.4

Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009, Pub. L. No. 111-23, §3, 123 Stat. 1704, 1707 (2009).

N.Y. Statutes - codes

T 1 (page 279)

N.Y. Soc. Serv. L. § 44 (McKinney 2003).


N.Y. statutes- session laws

R 12.4

Act of February 8, 2002, ch. 546, 2001 N.Y. Laws 591 (limiting check cashing exemptions under the Banking Law).

Act of July 20, 2011, ch. 195, §1, 2011 N.Y. Sess. Laws 923 (McKinney).

State statutes- commercial electronic databases

R 18.3

Cal. Veh. Code § 21212 (West, WestlawNext through June 2012 amendments).


Unofficial online sources

R 12.5

R 18.2.3

Neb. Rev. Stat. §9-241.06 (2011), available at

Official online statutes not available in print

R 12.5

Kingston, NY Code §160-2 (2012),


Administrative Materials (R 14 & B14):


Bluebook  Rule


Presidential Executive Order

T 1 (pp. 243)

Exec. Order No. 13,286, 3 C.F.R. §166 (2004).


Code of Federal Regulations

R 14.2

37 C.F.R. § 241 (2011).


Federal Register

R 14.2

Meeting Notice, 77 Fed. Reg. 33,724 (June 7, 2012).


Residence Requirements for Aliens Acquiring Firearms, 77 Fed. Reg. 33,630 (June 7, 2012) (to be codified at 27 C.F.R. pt. 478).

Official Compilation of the Rules and Regulations of the State of New York

T 1 (page 283)


N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. tit. 9, §296-1.13 (2011).


Official Style Manual (N.Y. practitioners):

9 NYCRR 296-1.13.

New York State Register

T 1 (page 257)

34 N.Y. Reg. 17 (January 11, 2012).

Agency Website

R 14.3.2

R 18.2

Ex parte Cushman, No. 1998-2610 (B.P.A.I. August 24, 2001),


Secondary Sources (R 15 & 16, B 15 & 16)


Bluebook Rule


Books, single volume

B 15.1

Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877 (1988).

Books, multiple volumes

B 15.1

2 Patricia A. Salkin, New York Zoning Law and Practice §18:12 (4th ed. 2011).

Law review article

R 16.1

Kendall Thomas, Beyond the Privacy Principle, 92 Colum. L. Rev. 1431 (1992).

A.L.R. (American Law Reports) annotation

R 16.7.6

William G. Phelps, Annotation, Parody as Trademark or Tradename Name Dilution or Infringement, 179 A.L.R. Fed. 181 (2011).

Legal Encyclopedia

R 15.8

50 Am. Jur. 2d  Libel and Slander §150 (2006).

41 C.J.S. Homicide §476 (2011).

Internet Sources

B 18

R 18

Jonathan H. Adler, Chevron Deference and Jurisdictional Questions, Volokh Conspiracy (June 7, 2012 12:28 PM),

Internet Sources that preserve original pagination (PDF)

R 18

B 18.1

Nadia N. Sawicki, The Hollow Promise of Freedom of Conscience, 33 Cardozo L. Rev. 1389 (2012),

Newspaper articles (print)

R 16.6

Adam Liptak, With Subtle Signals, Justices Request the Cases They Want to Hear, N.Y. Times, July 7, 2015, at A15

Newspaper Articles (web version)

R 16.6

Adam Liptak, With Subtle Signals, Justices Request the Cases They Want to Hear, N.Y. Times (July 7, 2015),




Reporter names (T 1 & T 2), case names (T 6), court names (T 7), explanatory phrases (T 8), periodical titles (T 13), among other things, are all commonly abbreviated.

Underlining & Typeface (R 2, B 2)

The Bluebook directs practicing attorneys to utilize underlining in certain portions of citations in legal memoranda and briefs (B 1). Italicizing is also appropriate, but practitioners more typically underline. Academic citations utilize small and large capitalization for many of the same portions of citations. 

Short Forms- Using Id. (R 4.1 and B 10.2):

Id. is often used in academic footnotes, briefs, or memoranda.

·         Use when citing the immediate preceding citation, but only when the preceding citation contains only one authority;

·         Use when citing the immediate preceding footnote, but only when the preceding footnote contains only one authority.

Use ’Id.’ when citing the identical preceding authority:


Use ’Id. at’ when the page number of the subsequent citation’s page is different:

Dothard v. Rawlinson, 433 U.S. 321 (1977).

Id. at 324.

Use ’Id. §’ when the subsequent citation refers to a different section than the preceding citation:

42 U.S.C. §§1981-1989 (2006).

Id. §1983.

Short Forms- Case Names (R 10.9):

Once you have provided the full citation for a case, you may subsequently refer to that case by using the name of the first party:

The Supreme Court has held that Title VII prohibits sexual harassment that takes the form of a hostile work environment. Harris v. Forklift Systems, 510 U.S. 17(1993). In Harris, the plaintiff was subjected to a steady stream of sexual innuendos and gender based insults.

Short Forms- Pinpoint Citations (omit the court and year parenthetical) (R 10.9):

Harris v. Forklift Systems, 510 U.S. at 25.

Harris, 510 U.S. at 25

510 U.S. at 25.

Internal Cross-References (supra and infra) (R 3.5):

Use supra to refer to material that appears earlier in your piece; use infra to refer to material that appears later:

See supra note 14 and accompanying text.

See infra pp. 28-29.

Signals (R 1.2-1.4 & B 1.2) are used to indicate support, to suggest comparisons or contradictions, or to indicate background material. The most common signals:


Briefs / Memoranda

cited authority directly states proposition

[no signal]

cited authority states the proposition


cited authority clearly supports the proposition


cited authority directly states the contrary proposition


cited authority presents helpful background material

See generally

Cited authority supports a proposition different from the main proposition but sufficiently analogous to lend support



Parentheticals (R 1.5) are primarily used to explain the relevance of the cited authority. They are usually used in conjunction with signals:

See Kent Greenawalt, All or Nothing at All: The Defeat of Selective Conscientious Objection, 1971 Sup. Ct. Rev. 31 (noting that a clear line between political and religious conscientious bases for objection are difficult to discern).

Parentheticals may also indicate omissions or when you are using a direct quotation which is quoting another source. You must include a parenthetical if you rely on a dissenting opinion.

Pinpoint Citations (B 10.1.2 & R 3.2) direct the reader to specific pages related to the cited proposition:

Pappas v. Passias, 271 A.D.2d 420,421 (2000).

Internet Citations (R 18)

Exact copies (scanned copies or PDFs), authenticated, or official documents may be cited as though citing to the print version. Internet sources that do not exist in a print form, such as blog postings, may be cited directly. Citing to the internet is also permissible if the source is unavailable in print or on a widely available commercial database.

Consult the index at the end of the Bluebook for information regarding more complicated citation questions.

Additional Resources:

Linda Barris, Understanding and Mastering the Bluebook: a Guide for Students and Practitioners (2nd ed. 2010) (Reserve KF245 .B37 2010).

Alan L. Dworsky, User's Guide to the Bluebook (2010) (Reserve KF245 .D85 2010).

Peter W. Martin, Introduction to Basic Legal Citation (13th Ed. 2013),

Tracy L. McGaugh et al., Interactive Citation Workbook for the Bluebook (annual) (KF245 .M335) (the electronic Interactive Citation Workstation is available on LexisNexis.).

Susan T. Phillips & Nancy Johnson, Legal Research Exercises: Following the Bluebook: a Uniform System of Citation (annual) (Reserve KF240 .F671 2013).

Larry L. Teply, Legal Writing Citation in a Nutshell (2008) (Reserve KF245 .T47 2008) (does not reflect revisions adopted in the 19th  & 20th  editions of the Bluebook).

Cathleen Wharton et al., Citation Form for Briefs and Legal Memoranda, The Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction

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