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Guide to Legal Abbreviations and Citations

Case Citations and Abbreviations

The essential elements of a case citation enable you to find the case in a case reporter.  They are the case name, the volume number and abbreviation of the reporter in which the case was published, the initial page number of the case, and the year of the case. The volume number is placed before the reporter abbreviation and the page number is placed after the abbreviation. Sometimes, a citation includes an abbreviation for the court that decided the case and/or the state where the case was decided.

Example:

  • Grey v. Campbell Soup Co., 650 F. Supp. 1166 (C.D. Cal. 1986)

    This is a citation to a federal District Court case published in the Federal Supplement. The "C.D. Cal." abbreviation refers to the Central District Court of California, which decided this case.

If a case is published in more than one reporter, additional reporter references may also be included to enable you to find the case in the other reporter(s). These additional references are sometimes referred to as parallel citations.

Examples:

  • Barrows v. Jackson, 346 U.S. 249, 73 S. Ct. 1031, 97 L. Ed. 1586 (1953)

    This is a citation to a United States Supreme Court case, which was published in three different reporters.
  • Jones v. Kelly, 208 Cal. 251, 280 P. 942 (1929)

    This is a citation to a California Supreme Court case, which was published in two different reporters.

Case reporters are published in series, which are designated by a series number (2d, 3d, 4th, etc.). Because each reporter series begins with volume 1, it is important to include the correct series designation in your citation if your case appears in a second, third, fourth, or later series.

Examples:

  • Universal Pictures Co. v. Harold Lloyd Corp., 162 F.2d 354 (9th Cir. 1947)

    This is a citation to a United States Court of Appeals case, published in volume 162 of the second series of Federal Reporter. The "9th Cir." abbreviation refers to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which decided this case.
  • Harris v. Atlantic Richfield Co., 14 Cal. App. 4th 70, 17 Cal. Rptr. 2d 649 (1993)

    This is a citation to a California Court of Appeal case, published in volume 14 of the fourth series of California Appellate Reports as well as in volume 17 of the second series of California Reporter.

The following are lists of standard abbreviations for the major federal and California case reporters as well as for the U.S. regional reporters that cover state cases from different regions of the country. The lists indicate how many series have been published for each reporter and which courts or states are covered by each reporter.

Federal Reporters:

Reporter Abbreviation(s)Name of ReporterCourt(s) Covered
F., F.2d, F.3d Federal Reporter (first, second, and third series) United States Courts of Appeals
F. Supp., F. Supp. 2d Federal Supplement (first and second series) United States District Courts
F.R.D. Federal Rules Decisions United States District Courts
L. Ed., L. Ed. 2d U.S. Supreme Court Reports, Lawyers' Edition (first and second series) United States Supreme Court
S. Ct. Supreme Court Reporter United States Supreme Court
U.S. United States Reports United States Supreme Court

California Reporters:

Reporter AbbreviationsName of ReporterCourt(s) Covered
Cal., Cal. 2d, Cal. 3d, Cal. 4th California Reports (first, second, third, and fourth series) California Supreme Court
Cal. App., Cal. App. 2d, Cal. App. 3d, Cal. App. 4th California Appellate Reports (first, second, third, and fourth series) California Courts of Appeal
Cal. Rptr., Cal. Rptr. 2d, Cal. Rptr. 3d California Reporter (first, second, and third series) California Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal

Regional Reporters:

Reporter Abbreviation(s)Name of ReporterStates Covered
A., A.2d Atlantic Reporter (first and second series) CT, DC, DE, MD, NJ, NH, ME, PA, RI, VT
N.E., N.E.2d North Eastern Reporter (first and second series) IL, IN, MA, NY, OH
N.W., N.W.2d North Western Reporter (first and second series) IA, MN, MI, ND, NK, SD, WI
P., P.2d, P.3d Pacific Reporter (first, second, and third series) AZ, AK, CA, CO, HI, ID, KS, MT, NM, NV, OK, OR, UT, WA, WY
S.E., S.E.2d South Eastern Reporter (first and second series) GA, NC, SC, VA, WV
So., So. 2d, So. 3d Southern Reporter (first, second, and third series) AL, FL, LA, MS
S.W., S.W.2d, S.W.3d South Western Reporter (first, second, and third series) AR, KY, MO, TN, TX