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The Bluebook: A Systematic Approach: Statutes

 A Book Citation

Note:  Statutes are one area where actual practice is veering away from the “letter of the law” according to The Bluebook.  How?


The Bluebook prefers citations to an official code “[i]f possible.” The United States Code (U.S.C.) is the official code for federal statutes. Since the U.S.C. experiences significant delays in publishing and contains no research aids, practicing attorneys typically cite to West’s United States Code Annotated (U.S.C.A.) or Lexis’s United States Code Service (U.S.C.S.). 


Also, attorneys are increasingly turning to online databases to do statutory research, and The Bluebook requires different information to be included in a citation to a statute found online. We’ll walk through a book citation and an online citation to statutes.


The Raw Material


We’re going to build a citation for Title 42 of the United States Code Annotated, Section 12114(a). These three screen shots give us what we need to assemble this citation. 


·         The title number.  42

·         The code name.  United States Code Annotated

·         The code date.  2005

·         The section number.  12114(a).


This is the title page.

And the copyright statement.


And the section you want to cite.



The Tools


Rule 12 covers statutes. Notice the two examples on p. 111. We’ll follow the model for citing an individual provision of the United States Code.


Relevant rules:


·         Rule 12.3

Cross referencing Table T1.3

Cross referencing Table T1

Cross referencing Rule 12.3.2

·         Rule 12.3.1(b)

·         Rule 12.3.1(d)

·         Rule 12.3.2


The Process


Rule 12.3 requires:

·         abbreviating the code name according to Table T1.3.

·         including a section symbol, a space and the section number. (In Word, you can find the section symbol by going to the Insert tab and choosing Symbol and finding the section symbol. Keyboard shortcut: ALT-0167.)

·         It also requires the use of large and small caps for the code name. BUT, we never, ever use large and small caps in writing practice documents. (See in this guide, GENERAL HINTS, Solving the Typeface Problem.) So, our code name and section number:


U.S.C.A. § 12114(a)


Rule 12.3.1(b) calls for the title number to precede the code name. So, our title number, code name and section number:


42 U.S.C.A. § 12114(a)


Rule 12.3.1(d) requires a publisher name within a parenthetical.  Since West is the publisher:




Rule 12.3.2 – on the year of the code. Use the year appearing on the spine or the title page or the copyright designator. In our case, there’s no date on the spine or the title page, so we use the copyright date, placing it within the parenthetical. Therefore our date is:




The Finished Product


Ta Da!  Our citation is:


42 U.S.C.A. § 12114(a) (West 2005).

An Online Citation

We’re going to walk through citing the same statute as we found it in Lexis.


The Raw Material


The screenshot below gives us all the information we need to cite the statute as it appears online

  • The title number.  42
  • The code name.  United States Code Service
  • The currency of the database.  Current through PL 112-20, Approved 6/24/2011.
  • The publisher of the code.  Matthew Bender 
  • The name of the service provider.  LexisNexis



 The Tools


Relevant rules


  • Rule 12.3

                Cross referencing Table T1.3

                Cross referencing Table T1

                Cross referencing Rule 12.3.2

  • Rule 12.3.1(b)
  • Rule 12.3.1(d)
  •  Rule 12.5

Cross referencing Rule 12.3.1(d)


The Process


We’ll build the base citation as we did for the book.  So:


42 U.S.C.A. § 12114(a)


But there will be three changes:

  • The code name will change since we’re using Lexis’s United States Code Service.

42 U.S.C.S. § 12114(a) 

  • The parenthetical will change to conform to Rule 12.5
  • The publisher will change:

42 U.S.C.S. § 12114(a) (Matthew Bender, LexisNexis 

  • And a statement of currency will be added.  

through PL 112-20)


So, here’s our citation!


42 U.S.C.S. § 12114(a) (Matthew Bender, LexisNexis through PL 112-20).