The other day as I was going about my Law Librarian business, I had a person come up to me asking how to find a case using a case citation. Seems this person was a first year law student and he had not yet learned how to read a case citation (which is a pretty sad commentary on the legal studies offered at law schools; I mean, this poor guy was scrambling around because no one thought to tell him how to find the law? I mean, really!?). Because I get asked this question probably 20 times a day, let me get this one out of the way so that your legal researching can get easy(ier).
In order to read a case citation, you need to know the basics of reading a case citation: (Volume), [(Reporter, Series (if any))], (Page Number). Easy peasy, right?! So, say you have a citation of 120 Federal Reporter 323; this reads: volume 120, Federal Reporter, page 323. In this case, Federal Reporter is the name of the reporter (or the place where the case is published in).
Let's try another one: 425 Pacific Reporter 2d 100. That's (say it with me) volume 425, Pacific Reporter, second series, page 100 (where the Pacific reporter is the book in which the case was published). One thing about reading citations is that rarely are the reporters spelled out; in fact, they're usually abbreviated. Some case reporters and citation abbreviations you might come across include:
- United States Reports (U.S. Supreme Court): US
- Supreme Court Reporter (U.S. Supreme Court reporter published by West): SCT
- United States Supreme Court Reporters, Lawyers Edition (U.S. Supreme Court reporter published by Lexis): Law.Ed, L.Ed.
- Federal Reporter (Federal appellate): F, Fed., Fed.Rptr.
- Federal Supplement (Federal trial court): FS, F.Supp., Fed.Supp.
- California Reports (California Supreme Court): C, Cal.,
- California Appellate Reports (California Appellate Court): CA, Cal.App.
- California Reporter (unofficial California reporter published by West): CR, CA Rptr., Cal.Rptr.
- Pacific Reporter (unofficial reporter for the pacific region published by West): P, Pac.