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Citation Form for Statutes

Rule 12 provides detailed instructions for statute citation form. The general rule is to cite to the current "official" code (usually a version published by the government) whenever possible. If it is not possible to cite to the official code, you should cite to a current unofficial (commercially published) code.

The basic format for citing statutes is as follows:

  1. the abbreviated name of the code (found in Table T. 1);
  2. the section, paragraph, or article number(s) of the statute;
  3. the year of the code (according to Rule 12.3.2).
  • Sample citation for state statutes:
    N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1-181 (2001).
  • Sample citation for federal statutes:
  • 22 U.S.C. § 2567 (1983)

Rule 12.3 of the Bluebook specifies that statutes should be cited to the official code (U.S.C.) when possible. If a statute section does not appear in the official U. S. Code, usually because of the slow updating of that publication, cite to the United States Code Annotated or the United States Code Service.

Three major questions usually arise regarding citation form for statutes:

Which version of the code to cite?

Consult Table T. 1 of the Bluebook and look up your jurisdiction. The Table provides a list of statutory compilations available for each jurisdiction and the correct format for citing each compilation, including correct abbreviations and whether to include the name of the publisher in the parenthetical. For those jurisdictions in which more than one statutory compilation is available, cite to the official compilation if possible; otherwise, cite to an unofficial compilation.

How to determine which date to include in the citation?

Provide in the parenthetical the year that appears on the copyright page of the volume being cited. Note that the volume date does not necessarily correspond with the enactment date or the effective date of any of the statute sections included in the volume.

How to deal with statute text which is split between the main code volume and a pocket part or supplement?

If the statutory language itself (not annotation material) appears completely in the pocket part or supplement (that is, the statute was passed since the publication of the bound volume), use the term "Supp." and include in the parenthetical the date(s) of the pocket part or supplement, as follows:

  • Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 111J, § 2 (West Supp. 2003).

If the statutory language (not annotation material) appears partially in the main volume and partially in the pocket part or supplement - which may happen, for example, when a statute is amended after the publication of the most recent bound code volume- include both years as follows:

  • Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 14, § 1492 (1989 & Supp. 2002).

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