The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation, a style guide, prescribes the most widely used legal citation system in the United States. The Bluebook is compiled by the Harvard Law Review Association, the Columbia Law Review, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, and the Yale Law Journal. Currently, it is in its 19th edition. It is so named because its cover is blue.
The Bluebook is taught and used at a majority of U.S. law schools, and is also used in a majority of U.S. federal courts. Alternative legal citation style guides exist, including the ALWD Citation Manual. There are also several "house" citation styles used by legal publishers in their works.
The U.S. Supreme Court uses its own unique citation style in its opinions, even though most of the justices and their law clerks obtained their legal education at law schools that use The Bluebook. Furthermore, many state courts have their own citation rules that take precedence over The Bluebook for documents filed with those courts. Some of the local rules are simple modifications to The Bluebook system, such as Maryland's requirement that citations to Maryland cases include a reference to the official Maryland reporter. Delaware's Supreme Court has promulgated rules of citation for unreported cases markedly different from The Bluebook standards, and custom in that state as to the citation format of the Delaware Code also differs from The Bluebook. In other states, notably New York, California, Texas, and Michigan, the local rules are so different from The Bluebook that they are codified in their own style guides. Competent attorneys in those states must be able to switch seamlessly between citation styles depending upon whether their work product is intended for a federal or state court.
An online subscription version of The Bluebook was launched in 2008. A mobile version was launched in 2012 within the rulebook app, an app that allows lawyers, scholars, judges, law students, paralegals, and others involved in the legal profession to reference federal and state court rules, codes, and style manuals on iPad and other mobile devices.
The 18th edition of The Bluebook governs the style and formatting of various references and elements of a legal publication, including:
- Structure and Use of Citations
- Typefaces for Law Reviews
- Short Citation Forms
- Abbreviations, Numerals, and Symbols
- Italicization for Style and in Unique Circumstances
- Titles of Judges, Officials, and Terms of Court
- Legislative Materials
- Administrative and Executive Materials
- Books, Reports, and Other Nonperiodic Materials
- Periodical Materials
- Unpublished and Forthcoming Sources
- Electronic Media and Other Nonprint Resources
- Foreign Materials
- International Materials
The origin of The Bluebook was a pamphlet for proper citation forms for articles in the Harvard Law Review written by its editor, Erwin Griswold. In 1939, the cover of the book was changed from brown to a "more patriotic blue" to avoid comparison with a color associated with Nazi Germany.
At over 500 pages for the 19th edition, The Bluebook is significantly more complicated than the citation systems used by most other fields. Legal scholars have called for its replacement with a simpler system. The University of Chicago uses the simplified "Maroonbook", and even simpler systems are in use by other parties.
Judge Richard Posner is "one of the founding fathers of Bluebook abolitionism, having advocated it for almost twenty-five years, ever since his 1986 University of Chicago Law Review article on the subject." In a 2011 Yale Law Journal article, he wrote:
The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation exemplifies hypertrophy in the anthropological sense. It is a monstrous growth, remote from the functional need for legal citation forms, that serves obscure needs of the legal culture and its student subculture.
Posner personally uses a far simpler citation system based largely on the First Edition of the Bluebook. This system, which he includes in a manual he provides for his law clerks, was reprinted in the aforementioned Yale Law Journal article. At the time of the article, his citation system was 885 words long, or about two printed pages—far shorter than the 511 pages of the Nineteenth Edition, the 640 pages of the then-current ALWD Citation Manual, or the over 1,000 pages of the Chicago Manual of Style.
In the short story “The Clerk,” the embittered protagonist observes that the Bluebook is “a foolish exercise in consistency at the cost of sanity”:
If the Bluebook were a judge, it would be the kind of judge who sent a man to be hanged for having written a death-row appeal in pencil rather than pen. It had lost all connection with the simple, practical task of providing effective rules for legal citation. It was the ever-expanding midrash of some obscure cult dedicated to the worship of arbitrariness and bad aesthetic decisions.
- Legal citation signals
- Australian Guide to Legal Citation
- Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation
- Oxford Standard for Citation of Legal Authorities (OSCOLA)
- "The Bluebook Legal Citation Guide Now Available Online". Yale Law School. 22 February 2008. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
- "The Bluebook Is Now Available As A Mobile App". Joint Press Release of The Bluebook editors (the Columbia Law Review Association, Inc., the Harvard Law Review Association, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, and The Yale Law Journal Company, Inc.) and Ready Reference Apps, LLC, August 13, 2012.
- Hurt, Christine (2007). "The Bluebook at Eighteen: Reflecting and Ratifying Current Trends in Legal Scholarship". Indiana Law Journal 82: 49, 51–52.
- Dickerson, A. Darby (1996). "An Un-Uniform System of Citation: Surviving with the New Bluebook". Stetson Law Review (Stetson University College of Law) 26: 53, 58–60.
- Posner, Richard A. (2011). "The Bluebook Blues". Yale Law Journal 120 (4): 850–861. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
- The University of Chicago Manual of Legal Citation. University of Chicago Law Review.
- Posner, Richard A. (1986). "Goodbye to the Bluebook". The University of Chicago Law Review 53 (4): 1343. JSTOR 1599750.
- Perry, Jason (February 2013). "The Clerk". Journal of Legal Education (Online) 62 (3): 4. Retrieved January 30, 2013.
- Official website
- Citeus Legalus, an automatic Bluebook citation generator
- Introduction to legal citation, by Peter W. Martin
- A Bluebook Guide for Law Students, by Scott Akehurst-Moore