8.6.1 Mode of citation

(a) Year of decision

Cite cases from the United States as consistently as possible with the general rules in this guide but include the year at the end of the citation in round brackets following the court identifier.

Eg Dale v Boy Scouts of America 734 A 2d 1196 (NJ 1999) at 1200.

Eg Logan v Commissioner of Correction 9 A 3d 776 (Conn 2010).

(b) Jurisdiction

It is important that all citations to United States cases have sufficient information to enable the reader to determine whether the case was decided by a federal or a state court. The rules for citation of each are set out below.

8.6.2 Federal court decisions

(a) District Court

The District Court is the first level in the federal system.

Cite decisions of District Courts to the Federal Supplement Reports (abbreviated “F Supp”). More modern cases are usually reported in a later series of the Federal Supplement Reports; change the report series abbreviation to “F Supp 2d”. In general, be guided by the abbreviation given in the report itself but remove any unnecessary punctuation.

Eg Dow Jones & Co v Board of Trade 546 F Supp 114 (SD NY 1982) at 117.

As the Federal Supplement Reports contain only decisions of the District Courts, it is unnecessary to include a court identifier.

There are sometimes a number of federal districts within a particular state and each district is given a geographic name such as “Northern”, “Southern”, “Eastern” or “Western”. Abbreviating the geographic name and the usual abbreviation of the state thus makes up the abbreviation. In general, be guided by the abbreviation given in the report itself but remove any unnecessary punctuation.

Eg United States v Roberts 1 F Supp 2d 601 (ED Lou 1998) at 608.

(b) Courts of Appeals

The Federal Courts of Appeals are the second level in the federal system.

Decisions of the Federal Courts of Appeals are reported in the Federal Reporter (abbreviated to “F”, “F 2d”, or “F 3d”, depending on the series).

Eg Leon v Pacific Tell & Tel Co 91 F 2d 484 (9th Cir 1937) at 489.

As the Federal Reporter only reports decisions of the Federal Courts of Appeal, it is unnecessary to include a court identifier.

There are 13 Federal Courts of Appeals. When citing these courts, indicate which circuit is being cited. There are 11 circuits that cover regions of the states and territories of the United States and are referred to by number. There is a separate circuit for the District of Columbia (the DC Circuit) and a separate circuit for special federal statutes such as the Patent Act (the Federal Circuit). Abbreviate these as follows:

First Circuit

Second Circuit

Third Circuit

Fourth Circuit (and following)

District of Columbia Circuit

Federal Circuit

(1st Cir)

(2d Cir)

(3d Cir)

(4th Cir)

(DC Cir)

(Fed Cir)

Eg Rockford Map Publishing Inc v Directory Service Co 768 F 2d 145 (7th Cir 1986) at 151.

Eg Application of Charkabarty 596 F 2d 952 (Fed Cir 1979) at 960.

Federal Courts of Appeals usually sit in smaller panels, mostly of three judges. Occasionally the whole court will sit “en banc” to consider whether a panel has correctly decided a case. Always note en banc decisions using round brackets following the citation and before any pinpoint reference.

(c) Supreme Court

The United States Supreme Court is the final appellate court in federal matters.

Decisions of the United States Supreme Court are reported in the United States Reporter, abbreviated to “US”.

Eg United States v Palmer 16 US 610 (1818) at 631.

8.6.3 State court decisions

(a) Jurisdiction and courts

When citing a state court decision, it is necessary to include both which state the court is from and the level of the court.

By convention, however, the absence of a court identifier implies that the decision is from the highest court in the state.

In general, adopt the abbreviations given by the report series, with unnecessary punctuation removed.

Eg Gregory v Carey 791 P 2d 1329 (Kan 1990) at 1336.

(b) Report series

While most of the American states have their own official report series, because of the general difficulty of obtaining such series in New Zealand, generally cite to the following report series, which are geographically arranged:






A or A 2d (for the second series)

P or P 2d

So or So 2d

SW or SW 2d

NE or NE 2d

Eg Elisabeth N v Riverside Group Inc 585 So 2d 376 (Fla Dist Ct App 1991) at 378–381.
Eg Winkelman v Beloit Memorial Hospital 483 NW 2d 211 (Wis 1992).

(c) Neutral citation

A number of states have adopted neutral citations (known as public domain citations). Where these are available, provide a reference to the neutral citation and the reported version. See The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation for information on which states use public domain citations.

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