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Legal Studies Guide

Reading Legal Citations

Types of Legal Citations

I. Reading a Case Citation

Cases are published in reporters. Typically, a case citation is comprised of:

  1. the names of the parties involved in the lawsuit
  2. the volume number of the reporter containing the full text of the case
  3. the abbreviated title of that case reporter
  4. the page number on which the case begins the year the case was decided
  5. the name of the court deciding the case (not always included)

II. Reading a Michigan Citation

Here is an example of a Michigan case:

People v. Phillips, 416 Mich. 63, 330 N.W.2d 366 (1982)

In the example above, the first citation (416 Mich. 63) is from Michigan’s official state reporter, while the second citation (330 N.W.2d 366) is where the decision will be found in its applicable regional reporter. 

The regional reporters are published by West Publishing Co. and include West’s topics and key numbers. 

The state of Michigan is located in West’s Northwestern reporter which corresponds to the abbreviation N.W.2d found above. (Taken from

III. Reading a Supreme Court Citation

Often, a case is reported or printed in more than one set of books and then all of the cites to that opinion are given; these are known as parallel citations. 

Chicago Mercantile Exchange v. Deaktor, 410 U.S. 113, 93 S.Ct. 705, 35 L.Ed. 2d 147 (1973).

In this example, the United States Reports citation, described earlier, is given first and is followed by the Supreme Court Reporter and the United States Supreme Court Reports Lawyers’ Edition citations, commonly referred to as the Lawyer’s Edition. The other citations are parallel citations.

Opinions of the U.S. Supreme Court as reported in three different reporters: the United States Reports (the official reporter); the Supreme Court Reporter; and the Lawyers’ Edition. The text of the court’s opinion will be the same in either one of the reporters. The only difference will be the editorial treatment made by the different publishers of these reporters. (Taken from

IV. Reading a Federal Statuatory Citation

A federal statutory citation generally contains the following elements:

  1. the title or chapter number of the code
  2. the abbreviated name of the code
  3. the section or part number of the title or chapter; and
  4. the year of the code


federal statutory citation example

Common Abbreviations

Title Bluebook Abbreviation Michigan Uniform Abbreviation Content
American Jurisprudence, 2d ed. Am. Jur. 2d (Am Jur 2d) encyclopedia
Code of Federal Regulations C.F.R. (CFR) federal regulations arranged by subject
Corpus Juris Secundum C.J.S (CJS) encyclopedia
West’s Education Law Reporter Educ. L. Rep. (Educ L Rep) state and federal education cases from 1982 to present
Federal Reporter, 1st, 2d and 3d series F., F.2d, F.3d (F, F2d,F3d) cases from United States Courts of Appeals
Federal Register Fed. Reg. (Fed Reg) federal regulations by date
Federal Supplement, 1st and 2d series F. Supp., F. Supp. 2d (F Supp, F Supp 2d) cases from United States District Courts
United States Supreme Court Reports, Lawyers’ Edition, 1st and 2nd series L. Ed., L. Ed.2d (L Ed, L Ed 2d) United States Supreme Court Cases
Michigan Compiled Laws Service   (MCLS) Michigan law
Michigan Reports Mich. (Mich) official decisions of Michigan Supreme Court
Michigan Appeals Reports Mich. App. (Mich App) official decisions of Michigan Court of Appeals
Michigan Administrative Code Mich. Admin. Code   Compilation of all adopted rules and regulations in effect in the state of Michigan
Michigan Compiled Laws Mich. Comp. Laws (MCL) official codification of statutes for the state of Michigan
Michigan Compiled Laws Annotated Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. (MCLA) MCL with annotations
Public and Local Acts of the Legislature of the State of Michigan Mich. Pub. Acts (PA) public and local actsf of the legislature of the state of Michigan
Michigan Register Mich. Reg. (MR) regulatory information that supplements the Mich. Admin. Code
United States Statutes at Large Stat.   federal statutes arranged by date
United States Reports U.S. (US) United States Supreme Court Cases
United States Code U.S.C. (USC) federal statutes arranged by subject
United States Code Annotated U.S.C.A. (USCA) federal statutes arranged by subject
United States Code Service U.S.C.S (USCS) federal statutes arranged by subject