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Researching US Supreme Court Cases

One case, multiple citations

US legal citations tell you where to look to find a legal document, based on the volume and page number where the case may be found in a series of books called reporters.

Cases are found in multiple reporters (official and unofficial), so you may encounter multiple different citations for the same case. These may be referred to as "parallel citations," that is, parallel to the official citation of the case in United States Reports (the official reporter for Supreme Court cases) or the official state reporter. 

Case: New York Times Company v. Tasini

533 U.S. 483
this is the official citation for this case; it refers to the case as published in United States Reports


121 S.Ct. 2381
this is an unofficial citation for this case; it refers to the case as published in Supreme Court Reporter

150 L.Ed.2d 500
this is an unofficial citation for this case; it refers to the case as published in United States Supreme Court Reports - Lawyers' Edition

Finding Reporters in the TriCo Libraries (Print and Online)

Bluebook Guide

The Bluebook is the guide to citing legal documents in the United States. For an overview of citing legal documents according to the Bluebook, consult the Georgetown University Law Library guide.

How to Cite Supreme Court Cases

(Adapted from Georgetown Law Library Guide to Citing Cases)

When citing a Supreme Court case, you should cite the official Supreme Court reporter, United States Reports, unless the United States Reports volume containing the case has not yet been published. If the case you're citing has not yet been published, cite the United States Supreme Court Reports - Lawyers' Edition.

As of March 2014, cases decided on or before October 3, 2008 are available in United States Reports.

1. U.S. Supreme Court: Official Citation

When citing Supreme Court cases, you must cite to the official Supreme Court reporter, United States Reports. To cite to a case in the United States Reports, list the following five elements in order:

  1. Name of the case (underlined or italicized);
  2. Volume of the United States Reports;
  3. Reporter abbreviation ("U.S.");
  4. First page where the case can be found in the reporter;
  5. Year the case was decided (within parentheses).

Consider, for example, the following citation:

New York Times Co. v. Tasini, 533 U.S. 483 (2001)

The elements are as follows:

ElementResult
Name of the case New York Times Co. v. Tasini,
Volume of the Reporter 533
Reporter abbreviation U.S.
First page of case 483
Year of decision (2001)

Page numbers:


If you're referring to a specific page of a case, add the page number(s) as shown in the example below.

2. United States Supreme Court Reports - Lawyers' Edition: Unofficial Citation

When the case you're citing has not yet been published in the official United States Reports, cite the United States Supreme Court Reports — Lawyer's Edition instead. Citation formatting is the same, except the reporter abbreviation differs. For example:

Reed Elsevier, Inc. v. Muchnick, 176 L.Ed. 2d 18 (2010)



Reporter Abbreviations (for reporters available in the TriCo)

When reading law review articles and other materials discussing Supreme Court cases, you may come across references to cases. Knowing the abbreivations for the major Supreme Court reporters will make it easier to decipher the citations and find the relevant opinions.

Abbreviation:            Reporter:

U.S.                              United States Reports (official)

L. Ed.                           United States Supreme Court Reports, Lawyers Edition (unofficial, LexisNexis Publishing)
L. Ed. 2d                     --- Series 2

S. Ct.                           Supreme Court Reporter (unofficial, West Publishing)