Posner & Citation Formats

Posted: August 22, 2016 by Nazim in Uncategorized


A few months ago, the Volokh Conspiracy reported that judge Posner, who may be the second most famous judge who isn’t a supreme court justice (after Learned Hand), refutes standardized citation formats entirely. The Columbia Law Review, the Harvard Law Review, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, and The Yale Law Journal all gleefully printed his honor’s exhortation to set fire to the bible of legal citation. In his article, he includes the the instructions that he issues to his clerks instead of the widely used citation formats, which I reproduce in their entirety below.  That sound you hear is me, clapping my hands and grinning madly, as I read it over and over.

[Posner] doesn’t follow the Bluebook, the Maroon Book, the Chicago Manual of Style, or any other style book, and doesn’t want you to get hung up worrying about citation form. A few simple rules, however, should be kept in mind:

No parallel citations in cases; statutory provisions do not need years, unless the point is to identify an old law.

Case names

  • Avoid abbreviations (especially nonobvious ones, such as “Trans.” and “Elec.”), with a few exceptions: Ry., R.R., Comm’n, Co., Corp., Inc., &, Ass’n, Ins.; sometimes Dist., Mfg., Int’l.
  • Omit Inc. or Co. when it immediately follows Co., Ry., or R.R.
  • In re Casename, not In the Matter of Casename

State courts

  • Highest court: abbreviation for the state (Ill., Cal., N.Y.)
  • Intermediate appellate court is Ill. App., Cal. App., etc. New York is an exception: “N.Y. App. Div.”
  • Regional reporter is preferred, but if the citation is to the official state reporter, do not repeat the state name within parentheses. If you have a regional-reporter citation, do not add the official-reporter citation.

Supra cites of cases repeat the full title; supra cites of authored materials repeat the author. Use an N-dash (–) for page and date ranges (and watch them turn into run-of-the-mill hyphens when you get the galleys back!).
Don’t just copy blindly a citation from a reporter; reformat it (e.g., by putting a space between court and year, as West does not do: “7th Cir. 2000” not “7th Cir.2000”).
The usual citation order is Supreme Court, Seventh Circuit, other circuits, state supreme courts, other state appellate courts, federal and state trial courts. But when state law supplies the rule of decision in a case, the state courts whose law governs should be cited first; and all in reverse chronological order. Sometimes it makes sense to put a seminal case first. He is not a stickler about order. Remember, you are not working on a law review. Substance rather than form is paramount in his chambers (though make sure not to be sloppy!).


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