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APA 7th ed. Style Guide: Legal Sources

Legal References

  • In APA Style, most legal materials are cited in the standard legal citation style used for legal references across all disciplines. This legal style has notable differences from other APA Style formats.
  • For more information on preparing legal references, consult The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation.


Key Differences Between APA Style References and Legal References

(Table 11.1 from Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 7th ed. by American Psychological Association)
Difference APA Style Legal Style
Order of elements in the reference list entry Usually the author, date, title, and source, in that order Usually the title, source, and date, in that order
In-text citation Usually the author and year Usually the title and year
Version of work being referenced The exact version used The version of record as published in an official legal publication such as the United States Code or the Federal Register, plus a URL (optional) for the version used
Use of standard abbreviations Used for parts of a work (e.g., "2nd ed." for a second edition) Used for common legal entities and publications (e.g., "S." for the Senate and "H.R." for the House of Representatives)

Sample Citations - Cases or Court Decisions

U.S. Supreme Court

  • Decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court are published in the United States Reports (other reporters may also publish Supreme Court decisions). Cite Supreme Court decisions as published in the United States Reports whenever possible; cite the Supreme Court Reporter for cases that have not yet been published in United States Reports. 
  • Unlike other reference types, the title or name of a case is written in standard type in the reference list entry and in italic type in the in-text citation.
  • For cases that have not yet been assigned a page number, include three underscores instead of the page number in the reference list entry. (see example below)
  • The Template for Supreme Court decisions is as follows:
    • Reference list: Name v. Name, Volume U.S. Page (Year). URL
    • Parenthetical citation: (Name v. Name, Year)
    • Narrative citation: Name v. Name (Year)

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

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


U.S. Circuit Court

  • Decisions from the U.S. Circuit Court are published in the Federal Reporter.
  • The title or name of a case is written in standard type in the reference list entry and in italic type in the in-text citation.
  • The Template for U.S. Circuit Court decisions is as follows:
    • 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)

Example:


U.S. District Court

  • Decisions from the U.S. District Court are published in the Federal Supplements.
  • The title or name of a case is written in standard type in the reference list entry and in italic type in the in-text citation.
  • The Template for U.S. District Court decisions is as follows:
    • Reference list: Name v. Name, Volume F. Supp. Page (Court Year). URL
    • Parenthetical citation: (Name v. Name, Year)
    • Narrative citation: Name v. Name (Year)

Example:

Sample Citations - Statutes (Laws and Acts)

Federal Statute:

  • Federal statutes are published in the United States Code (U.S.C.). The U.S.C. is divided into sections, called titles-- for example, Title 42 refers to public health and welfare. 
  • The Template for federal or state 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)

Example:

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State Statute in State Code

  • Consult the Bluebook for formats of other states. 
  • The Template for federal or state 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)

Example:

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Sample Citations - Legislative Materials

Federal Testimony:

  • For the title of the federal testimony, include the title as it appears on the work and the subcommittee and/or committee name (if any), separated by a comma. Then provide the number of the Congress, the year in parentheses, and "testimony of" followed by the name of the person who gave the testimony in separate parentheses. When the testimony is available online, also include a URL.
  • Template:
    • Reference List: Title of testimony, xxx Cong. (Year) (testimony of Testifier Name). URL
    • Parenthetical Citation: (Title of testimony, Year)
    • Narrative Citation: Title of testimony (Year)

Example:

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Full Federal Hearing

  • For the title of a full federal hearing, include the name of the hearing and the subcommittee name. Provide the number of the Congress and year. When a video or other information about the hearing is available online, include its URL.
  • Template:
    • Reference List: Title of hearing, xxx Cong. (Year). URL
    • Parenthetical Citation: (Title of hearing, Year)
    • Narrative Citation: Title of hearing (Year)

Example:

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Unenacted Federal Bill or Resolution

  • The number should be preceded by "H.R." (House of Representatives) or "S." (Senate), depending on the source of the unenacted bill or resolution.
  • Template:
    • Reference List: Title [if relevant], H.R. or S. bill number, xxx Cong. (Year). URL
    • Reference List: Title [if relevant], H.R. or S. resolution number, xxx Cong. (Year). URL
    • Parenthetical Citation: (Title, Year)
    • Narrative Citation: Title (Year)

Example:

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Federal Report

  • For reports submitted to the House of Representatives, use the abbreviation "H.R. Rep. No." in the reference list entry and "House of Representatives Report No." in the in-text citation.
  • For reports submitted to the Senate, use the abbreviation "S. Rep. No." in the reference list entry and "Senate Report No." in the in-text citation.

Example:

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Sample Citations - Administrative and Executive Materials

Federal Regulation, Codified:

  • Official federal regulations are published in the Code of Federal Regulations. In the reference, provide the title or number of the regulation, the volume number in which the regulation appears in the Code of Federal Regulations, the abbreviation "C.F.R.", the section number, and the year in which the regulation was codified. If the regulation is available online, provide the URL.
  • Use the section symbol (§) and the section number in the reference. 
  • Template:
    • Reference List: Title or Number, Volume C.F.R. § xxx Page (Year). URL
    • Parenthetical Citation: (Title or Number, Year)
    • Narrative Citation: Title or Number (Year)

Example:

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Federal Regulation, Not Yet Codified

  • If the regulation has not yet been codified in the Code of Federal Regulations, it will appear in the Federal Register first. Indicate this by the abbreviation "F.R." instead of "C.F.R.". Instead of the year codified, provide the date of proposal. Also include the section of the Code of Federal Regulations where the proposed rule will be codified. Template:
    • Reference list: Title or Number, Volume F.R. Page (proposed Month Day, Year) (to be codified at Volume C.F.R.§ xxx). URL
    • Parenthetical citation: (Title or Number, Year)
    • Narrative citation: Title or Number (Year)

Example:

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Executive Order

  • Executive orders are reported in Title 3 of the Code of Federal Regulations, so "3 C.F.R." is always included in the reference list entry for an executive order.
  • Template:
    • Reference list: Exec. Order No. xxxxx, 3 C.F.R. Page (Year). URL
    • Parenthetical citation: (Exec. Order No. xxxxx, Year)
    • Narrative citation: Exec. Order No. xxxxx (Year)

Example:

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