How do I cite court decisions or case law?


This question came to me from students in Psychology 3313, but I’ve tried to make my answers as general as possible! – HC

Citing legal information can feel like a really un-fun treasure hunt: our APA citation guide, for example, refers you to the Publication Manual, which refers you to Appendix 7.1 which refers to you to the Bluebook. Then when you look at the Bluebook the examples are American. Annoying.

So, first thing’s first:

  1. What country is your court decision/case from? If it’s American use the Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation. If it’s Canadian, use the Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation instead. Either way, these resources are located in the library’s reference section.  If it’s from outside Canada or the US I would suggest asking a librarian or emailing the Law Library’s reference desk.
  2. Build your citation. If you find the books difficult to understand (e.g. if you’re inexperienced with legal terminology, like me), I recommend checking out one of the following helpful resources for actually creating your citation. These guides are helpful as they break down the instructions in the Canadian Guide and the Bluebook.

Canadian guides:

    1. Queen’s University Library – Guide to Canadian Legal Citation
    2. Carlton University Library – Citing Legal Sources (see p. 2 “Citing Jurisprudence”)

American guides:

    1. Cornell University – Introduction to Basic Legal Citation (browse menu on the left)
    2. Georgetown – Citing Cases

If you’d like some additional assistance from a librarian, feel free to contact the Law Library (or come visit us, of course!)