A Brief Guide to Legal Citations in APA Style


Law reviews

follow normal APA style for journals & magazines. 

Be aware that APA style for citing materials retrieved online is changing again.  Basically, if you have a DOI number use it, otherwise follow format guidelines.

Decisions, statutes, codes, etc.

For legal decisions, statutes, codes and other strictly legal formats, APA follows the style of The Bluebook:  A Uniform System of Citation.   The library has a copy:  REF KF245.Z9 U5.  There is also an extensive guide available online from the Cornell Law School by Peter W. Martin. http://www.law.cornell.edu/citation/

Legal Abbreviations:

Guide to Common Legal Abbreviations from Southern Illinois University Law Library

Citation format follows:  APA Style Manual, Appendix D Reference to Legal Materi


For each citation you need:



Digests are the law school equivalents of encyclopedias – they don’t use them.  Because of this, there isn’t a specific format.  I called the Law library at the U and after talking to the librarians, we came up with this compromise between APA and legal style.

Citation from Supreme Court Digests found on LexisNexis:

Reference list:

Regulation of use of public forum,   86 L.Ed. Digest Topic sec. 938  (LexisNexis 2004).


In text as note format :


Regulation of use of public forum (2004)


Court decisions

Lexis/Nexis gives a number of options for citations in court cases.  In general, use the first one.


For example:               LOVELL v. CITY OF GRIFFIN
                                               No. 391
                          SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
              303 U.S. 444; 58 S. Ct. 666; 82 L. Ed. 949; 1938 U.S. LEXIS 297

Use 303 U.S. 444 in the citation.  Do not use the LEXIS citation unless there is no other option.



Name v. Name, Volume Source Page (Court date)

NOTE:  Use the abbreviated case name.  If you don't know what the abbreviated name is, find the case on Lexis/Nexis.  The linked name that takes you to the case will be the abbreviated name.



Reference list:  (from Utah Court of Appeals)

State v. Kingston, Utah  App 103 (LexisNexis 2002).


NOTE:  For a paper where the preceding cases were important, there is a special format that includes the reference to a previous case.  Check out the  APA Style Manual, Appendix D Reference to Legal Materials for examples.


In text as note:

State v. Kingston (2002)



Reference list:  (from Utah Supreme Court)


Winn et al. v. Romney,  63 Utah 120 (LexisNexis  1923).

In text as note: 

Winn et  al.  v. Romney (1923)

NOTE:  et al.  stands for et alia, (or et alii or et aliae, depending on gender) so the period ALWAYS goes after the L.


Reference list:  (from U.S. District Court)

United States v.  Cleveland,  56 F. Supp. 890 (D. Utah LexisNexis 1944).  (NOTE:  The D. Utah, means the U.S. District Court – Utah.)


In text as note: 

United States v.  Cleveland (1944)



Reference list:  (from U.S. Court of Appeals)

White v. Utah,  41 Fed. Appx. 325 (10th Cir. LexisNexis 2002)


In text as note: 

White v. Utah (2002)

Reference list:  (from  U.S. Supreme Court)


Ginzburg et al. v. United States, 383 U.S. 463 (LexisNexis  1966).

In text as note: 

Ginzburg et al. v. United States (1966)



Statutes – laws arranged chronologically by year enacted.

Codes – laws arranged by subject.  It is common to cite a law from a code.


topic section (§) XXX (year)


Examples from code: 

Reference list:  (From the Utah Code Annotated)

Utah Technology Governance Act,  Utah Code Ann. § 63F-1-101  (2008)

In text as note:

Utah Technology Governance Act (2008)  2008 is date of publication, not necessarily date of act.


Reference list:  (From the Federal Code)

Registration of lobbyists,  2 U.S.C.S  § 1603

In text as note:

Registration of lobbyists (2008)


Examples:  Public law:

May use popular title or actual title:

For example: 


Americans with Disabilities Act OR Equal Opportunity for Individuals with Disabilities

Reference list: 


Narcotics Penalties and Enforcement Act of 1986, Pub. L. No. 99-570, § 1002, 100 Stat. 3207-2 (1986).

In text as note:


Narcotics Penalties and Enforcement Act (1986)


For legislation, enacted and not enacted, resolutions, committee reports, etc. see APA style manual and check styles for government information.