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APA Format Style Guide: Legal References

This guide will assist you in writing research papers using the American Psychological Association (APA) Style. It will help explain formatting your paper as well as proper citation for various resources.

Legal Citations vs. APA Citations

Legal references are usually written in legal style and require few changes for an APA reference list entry.  Some court decisions are reported in multiple places, which is called "parallel citation."  When a work has parallel citations, include all the citations in the reference list entry.  Existing legal references generally include the parallel citations, meaning you will not have to do additional research to find them.  The in-text citation for legal references are created from the reference list entry.  

A general form for each reference type is given below.  Each form usually includes a popular or formal title or name of the legislation and the reference information, which is called a citation.  Below are the key differences between APA style references and legal references.

Difference APA Style Legal Style
Order of elements in the reference list entry Author, Date, Title, and Source, in that order Title, Source, Date, in that order
In-text citation Author and Year Title and Year
Version of work being referenced Exact version used Version of record as published in an official legal publication
Use of standard abbreviations Used for parts of a work (e.g. "2nd ed." for a second edition) Used for legal entities and publications (e.g. "S" for Senate or "H.R." for House of Representatives)

Common Legal Reference Abbreviations

Type of Word or Phrase Word or Phrase Abbreviation
Part of Government Congress Cong.
House of Representatives H.R.
Senate S.
Type of Legal Material Regulation Reg.
Resolution Res.
Section of Legal Material Section §
Sections §§
Number No.
And following et seq.
Reporter of Federal Legal Material United States Reports U.S.
Federal Reporter F.
Federal Reporter, Second Series F.2d
Federal Reporter, Third Series F.3d
Federal Supplement F.Supp.
Federal Supplement, Second Series F.Supp.2d
Federal Supplement, Third Series F.Supp.3d
United States Code U.S.C.
Congressional Record Cong. Rec.
Federal Register F.R.

 

Cases or Court Decisions

Remember to indent the second and following lines of your reference list entries!

References for a case or court decision includes the following information:

  • title or name of case (e.g. Brown v. Board of Education)
  • citation - usually to a volume or page of a set of books where published cases can be found, called "Reporters" (e.g. Federal Reporter, Second Series)
  • precise jurisdiction of the court writing the decision (e.g. Supreme Court, New York Court of Appeals)
  • date of the decision
  • URL - optional - where you retrieved the case information

Federal Court Decisions

U.S. Supreme Court - Decisions are published in the United States Reports

  • Reference List: Name v. Name, Volume U.S. Page (Year). URL
  • Parenthetical Citation: (Name v. Name, Year)
  • Narrative Citation: Name v. Name (Year)

U.S. Supreme Court case, with a page number

Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954). https://www.oyez.org/cases/1940-1955/347us483

U.S. Supreme Court case, without a page number

Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ___ (2015). https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/14-556_3204.pdf

U.S. Circuit Court - Decisions are published in the Federal Reporter

  • Reference List: Name. v. Name, Volume F. [or F.2d, F.3d] Page (Court Year). URL
  • Parenthetical Citation: (Name v. Name, Year)
  • Narrative Citation: Name v. Name (Year)

U.S. circuit court case

Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 951 F.2d 1128 (9th Cir, 1991). https://openjurist.org/951/f2d/1128/william-daubert-v-merrell-dow-pharmaceuticals

U.S. District Court - Decisions are published in the Federal Supplements

  • Reference List: Name v. Name, Volume F. Supp. Page (Court Year). URL
  • Parenthetical Citation: (Name v. Name,Year)
  • Narrative Citation: Name v. Name (Year)

U.S. district court case

Burriola v. Greater Toledo YMCA, 133 F. Supp. 2d 1034 (N.D. Ohio 2001). https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/FSupp2/133/1034/2293141

U.S. district court case with appeal

Durflinger v. Artiles, 563 F. Supp. 322 (D. Kan. 1981), aff'd, 727 F.2d 888 (10th Cir. 1984). https://openjurist.org/727/f2d/888/durflinger-v-artiles

State Court Decisions

Can refer to the state supreme court, state appellate court, or state trial court

  • Reference Lists: Name v. Name, Volume Reporter Page (Court Year). URL
  • Parenthetical Citation: (Name v. Name, Year)
  • Narrative Citation: Name v. Name (Year)

State supreme court case

Tarasoff v. Regents of the University of California, 17 Cal.3d 425, 131 Cal. Rptr. 14, 551 P.2d 334 (1976). https://www.casebriefs.com/blog/law/torts/torts-keyed-to-dobbs/the-duty-to-protect-from-third-persons/tarasoff-v-regents-of-university-of-california

State appellate court case

Texas v. Morales, 826 S.W.2d 201 (Tex. Ct. App. 1992). https://www.leagle.com/decision/19921027826swd20111010

Statutes

Remember to indent the second and following lines of your reference list entries!

A statute is a law or act passed by a legislative body.  Statutes exist on the federal and state level.  

Federal statutes are published in the United States Code (U.S.C.).  State statutes are published in state-specific compilations; for example a Florida statute could be found in the Florida Statutes.

The reference template for statutes is as follows:

  • Reference List: Name of Act, Title Source § Section Number (Year). URL
  • Parenthetical Citation:(Name of Act, Year)
  • Narrative Citation:Name of Act (Year)

Federal Statute, Americans with Disabilities Act

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (1990). https://www.ada.gov/pubs/adastatute08.htm

Federal Statute, Civil Rights Act of 1964

Civil Rights Act of 1964, Pub. L.No. 88-352, 78 Stat. 241 (1964). https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/STATUTE-78/pdf/STATUTE-78-Pg241.pdf

State Statute in state code

Florida Mental Health Act, Fla. Stat. § 394 (1971 & rev. 2009). http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0300-0399/0394/0394.html

Legislative Material

Remember to indent the second and following lines of your reference list entries!

Legislative materials include federal testimony, hearings, bills, resolutions, reports and related documents.  Bills and resolutions that have been passed by Congress and signed by the President should be cited as statutes.  

When a URL is available, it is optional to include it in the reference list entry.

Federal testimony

Title of testimony, xxx Cong. (Year) (testimony of Testifier Name). URL

Federal real property reform: How cutting red tape and better management could achieve billionsin savings, U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, 114th Cong. (2016) (testimony of Norman Dong). http://www.gsa.gov/portal/content/233107

Full federal hearing

Title of hearing, xxx Cong. (Year). URL

Strengthening the federal student loan program for borrowers: Hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, 113th Cong. (2014). https://www.help.senate.gov/hearings/strengthening-the-federal-loan-program-for-borrowers

Unenacted federal bill or resolution

Title [if relevant], H.R. or S. bill number, xxx Cong. (Year). URL

Title [if relevant], H.R. or S. Res. resolution number, xxx Cong. (Year). URL

Mental Health on Campus Improvement Act, H.R. 1100, 113th Cong. (2013). https://www.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/1100

Enacted simple or concurrent federal resolution

S. Res. xxx, xxx Cong., Volume Cong. Rec. Page (Year) (enacted). URL

H.R. Res. xxx, xxx Cong., Volume Cong. Rec. Page (Year) (enacted). URL

S. Res. 438, 114th Cong., 162 Cong. Rec. 2394 (2016) (enacted). https://www.congress.gov/congressional-record/2016/04/21/senate-section/article/S2394-2

Federal report

S. Rep. No. xxx-xxx (Year). URL

H.R. Rep. No. xxx-xxx (Year). URL

H.R. Rep. No. 114-358 (2015). https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CRPT-114hrpt358/pdf/CRPT-114hrpt358.pdf

Administrative and Executive Materials

Remember to indent the second and following lines of your reference list entries!

Administrative and executive materials include rules and regulations, advisory opinions, and executive orders.

Federal regulation, codified

Title or Number, Volume C.F.R. § xxx (Year). URL

Protection of Human Subjects, 45 C.F.R. § 46 (2009). https://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/sites/default/files/ohrp/policy/ohrpregulations.pdf

Federal regulation, not yet codified

Title or Number, Volume F.R. Page (proposed Month Day, Year) (to be codified at Volume C.F.R. § xxx). URL

Defining and Delimiting the Exemptions for Executive, Administrative, Professional, Outside Sales and Computer Employees, 81 F.R. 32391 (proposed May 23, 2016) (to be codified at 29 C.F.R. § 541). https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/05/23/2016-11754/defining-and-delimiting-the-exemptions-for-executive-administrative-professional-outside-sales-and

Executive order

Exec. Order No. xxxx, 3 C.F.R. Page (Year). URL

Exec. Order No. 13,676, 3 C.F.R. 294 (2014). https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CFR-2015-title3-vol1/pdf/CFR-2015-title3-vol1-eo13676.pdf

Patents

Remember to indent the second and following lines of your reference list entries.

Patent references look similar to regular APA citations.

Patent

Inventor, A.A. (Year Patent Issued). Title of patent (U.S. Patent No. x,xxx,xxx). U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. URL

Hiremath, S.C., Kumar, S., Lu, F., & Salehi, A. (2016). Using metaphors to present concepts across different intellectual domains (U.S. Patent No. 9,367,592). U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?patentnumber=9367592

Constitutions and Charters

Remember to indent the second and following lines of your reference list entries!

To cite the whole constitution, a citation is not necessary.  Simply refer to the constitution in text. 

The U.S. Constitution has 26 amendments.

The Massachusetts Constitution was ratified in 1780.

Article of the U.S. Constitution

U.S. Const. art. xxx, § x.

U.S. Const. art. I, § 3.

Article of a state constitution

State Const. art. xxx, § x.

S.C. Const. art. XI, § 3.

Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

U.S. Const. amend. xxx.

U.S. Const. amend. XIX.

Repealed amendment to the U.S. Constitution

U.S. Const. amend. xxx (repealed Year).

U.S. Const. amend. XVIII (repealed 1933).

U.S. Bill of Rights

U.S. Const. amend. 1-X.

Charter of the United Nations

U.N. Charter art. xx, para. xx.

U.N. Charter art. 1, para. 3.

Treaties and International Conventions

Remember to indent the second and following lines of the reference list entry!

References to a treaty or international convention should include the name of the treaty, convention, or other agreement; the signing or approval date; and a URL if available.

  • Reference List: Name of Treaty or Convention, Month Day, Year, URL.
  • Parenthetical Citation: (Name of Treaty or Convention, Year)
  • Narrative Citation: Name of Treaty or Convention (Year)

United Nations Convention

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, November 20, 1989, https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/crc.aspx

Remember!

  • Capitalize only the first word in the document title and any proper nouns.  If there is a colon in the title (a subtitle), capitalize only the first word after the colon and any proper nouns.
  • Alphabetize your reference list by the first word of the citation, usually the author's last name.  If there is no author, alphabetize by the first main word in the title, ignoring "a," "an," or "the."
  • Double space all of the citations on your reference list.
  • Indent the second and following lines of the citation 5 to 7 spaces.