I am unsure on how to cite a court case. The one I am trying to cite is Riley v. California. The information I can plainly see is

Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District
Division One
State of California

Looking at Appendix 4 on the courts.ca.gov site, it gives an example:

Albertson's, Inc. v. Young (2003) 107 Cal.App.4th 106, 113.

I don't know what the volume number is (I've checked justia.com and it only seems to go up to 2002). I've also taken a look at law.cornell.edu and other examples but it is all very confusing. So far using easybib this is what I got, but it seems wrong.

Riley v. California. Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District of California. 8 Feb. 2013. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Feb. 2014. <http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/nonpub/D059840.PDF&gt;.

  • 1
    How you cite depends upon the context. Will this be in legal journal, an academic article or thesis, a blog, or what? Some contexts require the primary source, and some prefer the most accessible.
    – user63230
    Feb 7 '14 at 3:34
  • @andy256 It's just a paper for class. The teacher has given me the green light to use the document as a source.
    – user44758
    Feb 7 '14 at 3:35

Your link from the LII at Cornell is part of a larger work, Introduction to Basic Legal Citation by Peter W. Martin, which describes how legal sources are cited according to the Harvard Bluebook system in American legal writing— briefs, judicial opinions, and other works by lawyers and judges. This format may differ from the one preferred by the style guide you are following, and you should adhere to the guidance of your style guide and your editor. For what it's worth, however, MLA, APA, and Chicago all seem to stipulate this format for American court cases, and it is the format used by the law reviews and the federal courts.

To simplify, the citation of an American judicial decision generally takes this format:

[Case Name], [Volume of Reporter] [Abbreviated Name of Reporter] [Starting page number of case] ([Abbreviated Name of Court] [Date of Decision]), [electronic source info]

The principal gotcha here is that the case is unpublished (note the NOT TO BE PUBLISHED IN OFFICIAL REPORTS across the top of the document), and so it would not appear in California Appellate Reports, which the official reporter for the California 4th District Court of Appeal, Division 1 (and for all the other California appellate courts). Depending on the court, this could mean that the decision is never to be cited at all in legal writing, although that would not restrict you in other fields. In any case, the fields referring to reporter and page number are not applicable, and instead, a docket number or reference to an electronic source (URL or database name and record number) would take its place. Thus, you will probably see this cited as something like

David L. Riley v. State of California 2013 WL 475242 (Cal. Ct. App. 4th Dist. Feb. 8, 2013)

where 475242 is the Westlaw number according to various blogs, or more compactly

Riley v. California No. D059840 (Cal. Ct. App. 2013)

I cannot speak to the formats used in other systems (whether citations systems or legal systems).

  • Thanks, that's exactly how the citation appears in google scholar.
    – user44758
    Feb 7 '14 at 5:36

Your teacher or school should have provided a guide for how they prefer you to do this. Also relevant to this is whether the teacher or school prefers references in footnotes or in a bibliography. If you cannot obtain such guidance do as the following example shows.

"In Riley v. California (1) blah blah"

At the end of the page add a footnote 1. Riley v. California. Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District of California. Etc. Accessed 6 Feb 2014 http://www.courts.ca.gov/etc/etc.

Note that the (1) I used above would usually be a superscript, but I can't enter that from my phone :-)

The superscript number and the number in the footnote must be the same. If you Google footnotes you will see lots of examples.

  • My professors usually just direct us to a citation site, but I've never done a court case before. But yeah, I eventually was able to find the site on google scholar and use the blue book version.
    – user44758
    Feb 7 '14 at 5:39

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