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Legal Citation: Reading Legal Citations

The basics of legal citation including citation styles Bluebook and ALWD.

Reading Legal Citations

Legal citation is rather unique. In brief, the part of a legal citation that indicates where something is published typically includes the following elements:

Volume or Title number
Publication
(usually abbreviated). This may be followed by a series designation.
First page or section number Note: the symbol § means section.

Examples: 
970 P.2d 98 refers to volume 970 of the Pacific Reporter, Second Series page 98

29 U.S.C. § 1001 refers to Title 29 of the United States Code, section 1001

Cal. Civ. Code § 4100 refers to section 4100 of the California Civil Code

3 CCR § 432 refers to Title 3 of the California Code of Regulations section 432 

For a more extensive explanation of legal citation and for help with deciphering citations see the sources below.

Parallel Citations

Opinions of certain courts are often published in more than one court reporter. Parallel citations are citations to the same case in different reporters.

For example, opinions of the US Supreme Court can be found in three different court reporters:

So if your citation looked like this:

Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483, 74 S. Ct. 686, 98 L. Ed. 873

The official citation is from United States Reports (347 U.S. 483), and the parallel (unofficial) citations are from the Supreme Court Reporter (74 S. Ct. 686) and United States Supreme Court Reports (98 L. Ed. 873).