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Rhetoric 159A: Finding a Case

Find the Opinion, Case Facts, Etc

Newspapers and Other News

Reading a Legal Citation

Have you ever been puzzled by weird looking citations such as:

  • 410 U.S. 113
  • 40 CFR §129.4
  • 65 FR 741
  • 16 USC §4246

No need to worry.  These are legal citations and they are quite easy to read once you understand their logic and abbreviations.  The abbreviation in the middle tells you the publication you need.  The first number is the volume of the publication where the citation (law, regulation, opinon, etc) is published, and the second number is the page number where the citation appears.  For instance, 410 U.S. 113 would be read as: "Volume 410 of the United States Reports, page 113."  Sometimes the first number refers to a title/part number instead of a volume number and the second number refers to a section number instead of page number.  The real tricky part is figuring out the abbreviation for the publication.  Below are some of the more common abbreviations you may run into doing research.  As you become more familiar with legal research, you will recognize the more common abbreviations.  Common U.S. abbreviations can be found here.  For other legal citations (state, local and international), see Bieber's Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations in the Doe Reference Collection.

U.S.-- United States Reports (Supreme Court opinions)
CFR -- Code of Federal Regulations (In this case, its [Title Number] CFR [Part/Section Number])
FR -- Federal Register
F -- Federal Reporter
F2d -- Federal Reporter, Second Series
USC -- U.S. Code (In this case, its [Title Number] USC [Section Number])
Stat -- U.S. Statutes at Large
Cal -- California Reporter