Archive for the ‘Abbreviations’ Category

Bluebook Weight Loss Program – Part Two: The Merger of Tables T6 and T13.2

Friday, October 16th, 2020

The twenty-first edition of The Bluebook has eliminated the separate table that previously prescribed how to abbreviate common words appearing in the name of a cited publication.  That table, Table T13.2, was a single purpose reference, to be used solely when citing articles.  Its columns, together with the institutional abbreviations contained in Table T13.1, turned “Harvard Law Review” into “Harv. L. Rev.”, “Yale Law Journal” into “Yale L.J.”, and “Journal of Law, Economics, & Organization” into “J.L. Econ. & Org.”  A writer consulted Table T6, not T13.2, when abbreviating a word in a case name or in the name of an institutional author.  In this latest edition, The Bluebook has collapsed the two.  The new, consolidated, T6 applies to case names, and to the names of publications, as well. 

Modest Gains

For the sponsoring organizations this constitutes the type of periodic revision valued by all publishers of higher education texts. It is the sort of change that will, inevitably, undercut the market for second-hand copies of The Bluebook‘s prior edition among the nation’s annual 38,000 or so beginning law students. For users the merger achieves only a slight reduction in the book’s heft—two pages, plus or minus. Any additional gains for a novice user of the reference, one of those beginning law students, say, are less clear.  For legal professionals committed to Bluebook compliance, as well as the research services and citation software tools upon which they rely, the change raises confounding issues.

Significant Costs

Unnecessary and Confusing Case Name Abbreviations

Providing separate tables for distinct types of material poses little risk of confusion, allows them to be tailored to the word patterns characteristic of each type, and relies on an abbreviation’s context to assist the reader.  (The Bluebook continues to employ many special purpose tables—one for court names, another for legislative documents, etc.) Set against uncertain gains, the merger of T13.2 and T6 has definite costs.  Collapsing the two deploys abbreviations that worked well so long as it was clear that they were part of a publication title into a setting in which they are far more likely to confuse.  The word “Law,” ubiquitous in journal names, illustrates the poor fit.  “Law” was never a candidate for a case name abbreviation.  Party names contain many more, much longer, “L” words.  In the new T6 “Law” has two entries and accompanying instructions on when to use each.  “Journal” at seven letters was not abbreviated in prior versions of T6, but as part of a periodical name the single letter “J” served as an intelligible stand-in.  Had “Journal” been included in the pre-merger T6 it would most likely have been trimmed to “Jour.”  (The only single letter abbreviations contained in that T6 were for the four cardinal directions.  Consistency with reporter abbreviations in Table T1 would have rendered “Atlantic” as “A.” but it is, and continues to be, shrunk only to “Atl.” when part of a case name,)  Consider a 2018 decision of the Nevada Supreme Court.  Per The Bluebook’s twentieth edition, the case should be cited as: “Clark Cty. Sch. Dist. v. Las Vegas Review-Journal, 429 P.3d 313 (Nev. 2018).”  Run through the new consolidated Table T6 its name becomes: “Clark Cty. Sch. Dist. v. Las Vegas Rev.-J.”

Only “University” has been spared merged treatment.  The T6 instructions conclude with a paragraph that applies solely to periodical titles.  It directs that although the abbreviation for “University” in T6 remains “Univ.” when that word is part of a journal name it can (and should) be reduced to “U.”

The Inclusion of Abbreviations for Words that Infrequently Appear in Case Names

Any number of the words moved from Table T13 into Table T6 have fewer than eight letters.  Many of those appear rarely, if ever, in case names.  Examples include: Africa, Ancestry, British, Civil, Cosmetic, Digest, Dispute, English, Faculty, Forum, Human, Injury, Labor, Lawyer, Library, Military, Mineral, Modern, Patent, Policy, Privacy, Record, Referee, Statistic, Studies, Survey, Tribune, Week, and Weekly.  Inserted into a table used to abbreviate case names, words like these constitute unnecessary clutter.  Their prior placement in Table T13 alongside the Institutional name abbreviations with which they often must be combined (abbreviations which remain in T13) provided the writer doing a lookup or format check on a journal citation, a simpler path. 

Displacement of Established and Intuitive Case Name Abbreviations

The merger also forced, otherwise unnecessary, changes in a number of case name abbreviations.  Separate tables allowed different abbreviations for the same word, with context determining which to use. The universe of journal names is many multiples smaller than that of party names.  In a citation they stand next to the full, unabbreviated title of the cited article and the author’s name.  This warrants a very different trade-off between the saving of space and clarity of reference.  That is why abbreviating “Law” as “L.” and “Journal” as “J.” and “Review” as “Rev.”—in the context of a journal name—works, while abbreviating a litigant named “Los Vegas Review-Journal” as “Los Vegas Rev.-J.” seems both unnecessary and cumbersome. That is why abbreviating “Employ,” “Employee,” and “Employment” as “Emp.” worked in a separate table for journal titles, but erasing the distinctions among “Employee” and “Employer” and “Employment,” as the merged T6 does, reduces clarity.  One can readily read and refer to “White v. Mass. Council of Constr. Emplrs, 460 U.S. 204 (1983)” (abbreviated according to prior editions of The Bluebook) by name, while “White v. Mass. Council of Constr. Emps., 460 U.S. 204 (1983)” (abbreviated per the twenty-first edition) leaves a reader unsure, without checking, whether it is the “Massachusetts Council of Construction Employers” or the “Massachusetts Council of Construction Employees.”  Previously, the abbreviation “Lab.” stood for “Laboratory” in a case name, “Labor” when it appeared in a journal title.  In context both were clear and not a source of confusion.  The table merger forced disambiguation.  “Laboratory” became a totally non-intuitive and unfamiliar “Lab’y”. Grotesquely, under the general rules on plurals that results in an abbreviation for “Laboratories” of “Lab’ys” (already, the subject of justifiable ridicule).

Will the Change Alter Professional Citation Practice?

To what degree will such changes in Bluebook abbreviations affect professional, as distinguished from academic, writing?  The answer is unclear.  It depends, in large part, on how the online research services and electronic legal citation formatting tools respond.  Case name abbreviations remain a matter of significant jurisdictional variation.  For certain, the U.S. Supreme Court will continue to cite its 1983 White decision by the name “White v. Massachusetts Council of Constr. Employers, Inc.”  Illinois appellate courts citing it will not even abbreviate “Construction.”

In part because of this degree of jurisdictional variation, the two dominant legal data vendors offer “choice of format” in their copy-with-citation features.  Among the choices both offer for cases is one labelled “standard.” 

Currently, both LEXIS and Westlaw provide a “standard” format case name for this 1985 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court at 471 U.S. 707 of:  “Hillsborough Cty. v. Automated Med. Labs., Inc.”  Will they, should they convert “Labs.” to “Lab’ys”?  Will they, should they retrospectively convert all the case names they deliver as part of a “standard” citation to the word abbreviations brought into T6 from T13.2 or altered there because of the merger?  When the twentieth edition of The Bluebook arbitrarily altered the abbreviation for “Advertising” from “Adver.”  to “Advert.” and the abbreviation for “County” from “Cnty.” to “Cty.“ in 2015, LEXIS and Westlaw followed. Bloomberg Law did not.  “Adver.” still regularly appears in appellate brief citations.

As yet, none of the online research systems have incorporated the numerous new abbreviations resulting from The Bluebook’s 2020 table merger.  Will they? May they not, instead, decide that the abbreviations resulting from this ill-considered move don’t warrant the label “standard,” since they fail to conform to widespread professional practice?  An option they might consider is the addition of a new “law journal” format to their array of options, thereby meeting the need of those law student editors and academic writers for whom Bluebook conformity is essential.  A similar puzzle over audience or market confronts those numerous other enterprises that provide legal citation formatting tools and citation guides.

Make that “Advert.” not “Adver.”

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

For nineteen years The Bluebook has decreed that when the word “Advertising” appears in a case name it should be abbreviated as “Adver.”  The pairing of word and abbreviation first appeared in the sixteenth edition.  The codification at once captured the then prevailing professional practice and encouraged use of that abbreviation over the two common alternatives.  Those were: 1) to include the word in full or 2) to abbreviate it to coincide with the British informal term, rendering it “Advert.”

Inexplicably, the latest edition of The Bluebook has added a terminal “t”, embracing an approach it rejected in 1996. Henceforward, all who follow its mandate must cite:

  • City of Columbia v. Omni Outdoor Adver., Inc., 499 U.S. 365 (1991)
    • as
  • City of Columbia v. Omni Outdoor Advert., Inc., 499 U.S. 365 (1991)

Why make the change?  Successive editions of The Bluebook have regularly added new “mandatory” abbreviations. The T6 list of the sixteenth edition had 120 entries. In the nineteenth there were 144, including an entry for “County” (to be abbreviated “Cnty.”). This latest edition is the first, in my memory, to substitute new abbreviations for established ones. In addition to supplanting “Adver.” with “Advert.” it has replaced “Cnty.” with “Cty.” Neither change addresses a source of potential confusion. Neither is driven by professional citation practice.

A failure to proofread? Implausible. The most likely explanation lies in the increasingly proprietary claims of The Bluebook enterprise. Faced with a better teaching book, the ALWD Guide to Legal Citation, and with data sources and software packages that purport to deliver citations that conform to its rules its editors made a number of arbitrary changes. “Copy if you dare,” they seem to be saying. For those operating within the universe of law journal publication such arbitrary changes may be hard to resist. With lawyers and judges, they’ll largely be ignored.


The ALWD Guide Capitulates

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014


The fifth edition of the ALWD Citation Manual was published this past month, renamed the ALWD Guide to Legal Citation and stripped of the previous subtitle “A Professional System of Citation.” That event warrants attention here. This post is the first but probably not the last commenting on this latest version of what has been an important citation reference and teaching book. (In view of the name change I’ll refer to it hereafter as the ALWD guide rather than switching back and forth between “manual” and “guide.”)

The obvious place to begin is with the work’s final capitulation to The Bluebook. The publisher’s description highlights this edition’s elimination of “stylistic differences between the ALWD Manual and the Bluebook, to help combat the perception that students who learn citation with ALWD do not know how to ‘Bluebook.’

 1. Editions 1 through 4

When first introduced in 2000, the ALWD guide offered an alternative approach on numerous issues of style. Fundamentally it set forth a “single and consistent set of rules for all forms of legal writing.” It rejected The Bluebook’s “separate and inconsistent systems” for academic writing and professional writing in the form of memoranda and briefs. Its citation rules were derived, it said, from professional consensus. Finally, reflecting the reality that in the world of law practice rules and practices specific to a jurisdiction often trump academically proclaimed “uniform” rules, it included an appendix detailing “local citation rules or preferences.” The subtitle accurately reflected this professional perspective.

The original ALWD guide didn’t allow itself to be trapped by The Bluebook’s inconsistencies. When the citation practice in some jurisdictions or courts offered a less cumbersome format than The Bluebook prescribed, the 2000 ALWD guide felt free to embrace it. ALWD members and fans of its guide were not content with securing its adoption by legal writing faculty. They sought to persuade law journals to adopt its style. They lobbied courts whose rules mandated Bluebook compliance to accept ALWD style as an alternative. In both respects they realized some success, although, no doubt, less than they had hoped for.

ALWD’s second edition (2002) maintained this independent stance. By the third (2006) the hope of winning over a critical mass of law journals had been relinquished, and consistent typeface conventions disappeared. For the first time the guide offered instruction on where and how to use large and small capital letters when “working with a journal or publisher that requires you to use this convention.” It also yielded on the typeface to be applied to statutory titles (“ordinary” rather than the “italics” called for by editions 1 and 2). The fourth edition (2010) brought further erosion. From the beginning the ALWD table of case name abbreviations had eschewed contractions. In the fourth edition for every word The Bluebook abbreviated with a contraction, the ALWD guide now offered that contraction as an alternative, coupled with the advice that if the writer chose to use contractions they should be used “consistently throughout the paper.” But on any number of other points ALWD style remained distinct.

No longer. Those few journals that call for the citations in article submissions to be formatted in ALWD style and state rules of procedure (like those in Alabama and Idaho) that specify ALWD style as a Bluebook alternative have been rendered dead letter. Why the complete surrender? Pressure from the guide’s main market segment and constituency, law students and those who teach them. The preface to the fifth edition explains (without once naming The Bluebook): “Feedback from membership surveys pointed to the staying power of certain scholarly traditions in legal citation and urged that ALWD modify its rules to acknowledge those traditions.” In the fifth edition, the publication’s ambition appears reduced to doing a better job than The Bluebook of delivering Bluebook content.

2. Positions Surrendered

What are some of the points on which ALWD has given up its distinct, reasonable and professionally grounded position?

a. Appellate court abbreviations

A simple one concerns the abbreviation for a state’s intermediate appellate court to be used when the cite itself does not identify the court. For example, the writer wishes to cite a decision of the Florida Court of Appeals, the Minnesota Court of Appeals, or the Texas Court of Appeals using its volume and page number in the National Reporter System. Per The Bluebook that is done as follows: Szarzynski v. Szarzynski, 732 N.W.2d 285 (Minn. Ct. App. 2007). Before the fifth edition the ALWD work took the sensible position that “Ct.” was unnecessary and instructed that the citation be written: Szarzynski v. Szarzynski, 732 N.W.2d 285 (Minn. App. 2007). Several considerations commend that approach not the least of which is that Minnesota courts and lawyers employ that style. Jurisdictions that have implemented print-independent or neutral citation schemes along the lines recommended by the A.B.A. and the American Association of Law Libraries use the state abbreviation and “App” to designate decisions of intermediate appeals courts. Nor do they stand alone. In their citation practice any number of courts and lawyers employ the more economic “Fla. App.”, “Minn. App.”, and “Tex. App.” Sadly, the fifth edition of ALWD has abandoned that approach. Stripping unnecessary elements or characters from citations is always desirable.

b. Treatment of the Federal Appendix reporter

Another unfortunate point of Bluebook merger is on the abbreviation to be used in citations to that ridiculous reporter of “unreported” decisions, the Federal Appendix. The publisher’s abbreviation for this series is “Fed. Appx.” and that is how past editions of ALWD had it. Knowledgeable Bluebook users know that it favors “Fed. App’x”. A citation which The Bluebook would have be written, Robinson v. Allstate Ins. Co., 508 Fed. App’x 7 (2d Cir. 2013), ALWD and the publisher formatted as Robinson v. Allstate Ins. Co., 508 Fed. Appx. 7 (2d Cir. 2013). Although this is a point of style on which the federal courts are themselves divided, a search of recent federal decisions uncovers a preference for “Fed. Appx.” of over two-to-one. Appealing the matter all the way to the top, one discovers that the Supreme Court consistently employs “Fed. Appx.” There is no justification other than conformity for the ALWD guide to yield on this point.

c. Use of contractions in case names

The Bluebook’s use of “App’x” rather than “Appx.” reflects a general attachment to contractions. They dot its list of abbreviations to be used in case names – “Ass’n” for “Association”, Comm’r for Commissioner, Dep’t for Department, Eng’r for Engineer, Fed’n for Federation, Int’l for International, and so on. As noted above, prior to the fourth edition, the ALWD guide’s abbreviations contained no apostrophes; all ended with periods (e.g., Engr. and Intl.). The fourth edition authorized use of contractions as an alternative (e.g., Engr. or Eng’r, Intl. or Int’l). This new fifth edition specifies contractions wherever The Bluebook does without an alternative. Where The Bluebook takes an inconsistent approach (“Envtl.” rather than “Envt’l”) ALWD now follows. Such slavish conformity cannot be justified in terms of uniformity of professional practice, for in this area, most especially, citation norms vary enormously.

d. Internet materials

In its coverage of materials available on the Internet ALWD’s fourth edition called for the URL to be placed in parentheses and for the citation to conclude with a date. In order of preference that date was to be either one explicitly carried by the document itself, or the date the site indicated it was most recently updated (“last updated”), or the date the writer last accessed the material (“accessed”).

To adhere to The Bluebook’s style on these points ALWD’s fifth edition had to strip the parentheses, change “last updated” to “last modified” and “accessed” to “last visited.” The citation treatment of Web materials does continue to evolve, and all these changes can find support in current professional practice. On the other hand, ALWD’s prior style choices were thoroughly defensible, and the conversion of “last updated” to “last modified” can only be explained on grounds of Bluebook conformity. The U.S. Supreme has gone both ways on the matter, and, as on so many other citation details, it follows its own style, using the phrase “as visited” to describe the date it accessed a Web-based document.

e. Et al.

Other points on which the ALWD fifth edition bows to Bluebook style include the citation of:

3. Bottom Line

The removal of the ALWD work’s prior subtitle is telling. The guide no longer provides an independent compilation or codification of professional practice. In joining the legion of “how to cite according to The Bluebook” books and study aids it reinforces the erroneous impression that U.S. legal citation style is both uniform and static. That was not true in 2000 when the ALWD guide first appeared. It is even less true today as the transformation and proliferation of legal information sources continues to accelerate. New and knotty issues of citation policy call for serious attention and fresh approaches. It is truly unfortunate that ALWD has ceded all initiative to others.

Should It Be “Commissioner”, “Comm’r”, or “Commr.”?

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

1. Truncating and Abbreviating Case Names

The “case name” segment of a case citation serves a very different function from the rest.  Rarely is it used to retrieve the decision.  Although “case name” searches are possible with all online services, use of the case “cite” delivers more accurate results, particularly if the parties have common names or are frequent litigants.  (Try searching on “Smith v. Smith”, “Smith v. Wal-Mart”, or, heaven help you, “Smith v. United States”.)

So why include the parties’ names as part of a citation?  I’ve seen a variety of lame explanations (e.g., “reveals the nature of the litigation”), but am convinced that the fundamental justification rests on the brain’s greater capacity to handle names.  Imagine having to remember or to discuss cases by their retrieval IDs.  Suppose, for example, after making a point in oral argument or law school class you were to be challenged to reconcile your position with “499 U.S. 340.”  Those who litigate in federal court may need to think and argue about “Rule 11 sanctions,” but I wager that most will find it easier to refer to the Supreme Court’s 1991 decision published at 499 U.S. 340 using its name or style or title or caption and will be able to remember that name long after forgetting the case cite.

In the official report that decision appears under the heading “Feist Publications, Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service Co., Inc.”  In oral exchange, and perhaps in memory, that may reduce to “Feist.”  But when constructing a complete citation how should the case name be written?  On that question interests of completeness and intelligibility collide with the need to minimize a case citation’s interruption of the flow of argument it is intended to support.  As one might expect there are different answers as to how that balance should be struck.

2. Stripping Off Excess


Beginning with the heading or title the deciding court has given a case, there seems to be a fair degree of consensus around several truncation principles:

  • If multiple actions are consolidated in an appeal, drop all but the first.
  • If multiple parties are involved on either or both sides of the case, use only the first.
  • With individuals trim down to a single name, the surname unless that does not appear (“Pickering” rather than “Marvin L. Pickering”, but “Marvin P.” if the surname is not given).  This practice can stumble over Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean names when they appear in traditional sequence.
  • Shrink longer procedural phrases (in English) to a short set of Latin equivalents (“In the Matter of Buddy Lynn Whittington, Petitioner” becoming “In re Whittington”).
  • Limit designations of business organization to the first (which would lop the “Inc.” off “Rural Telephone Service Co., Inc.”).

And so on.

3. Compressing What Is Left through Abbreviation: The Bluebook (and ALWD Citation Manual)

The Bluebook takes an aggressive approach to further party name reduction.  It directs that some 144 words that may appear in a business, non-profit, or public entity’s name be abbreviated and prescribes the abbreviation to be used for each.  Actually, the number is larger than 144 since some entries are word families – that is two or more words with the same root, treated as one, “Transport” and “Transportation”, for example.  Words not on the list may, the manual says, be abbreviated so long as they contain eight letters or more and the abbreviation would save “substantial” space.  Any word on the list, however, must “always” be abbreviated “even if the word is the first in a party’s name.”  (Rule 10.2.2.)  (Prior to 2000 The Bluebook spared the first word, but the seventeenth edition ended that dispensation.)  Applying these Bluebook rules to Feist compresses the case name by nearly one-third to Feist Publ’ns, Inc. v. Rural Tel. Serv. Co.  The ALWD Citation Manual, which achieves the same result in this and most other cases, contains an even more extensive list of abbreviations.  (Striking a very different balance, The University of Chicago Manual of Legal Citation pronounces that “Abbreviations in case names are rarely used.”)

4. The Bluebook’s Limited Influence on This Point

Of the many respects in which the styles prescribed by The Bluebook and the remarkably similar ALWD Citation Manual fail to reflect the diversity of citation formats in the professional writing of lawyers and judges, this may be the most conspicuous.  Style manuals governing judicial writing in important states exhibit quite different levels of enthusiasm for case name compaction (shorter lists, a first word exemption).  Some add words.  Some specify different abbreviations for words on The Bluebook list.

While the rules of appellate practice in a small number of states (Delaware, New Mexico, North Carolina) do appear to direct that case citations in memoranda and briefs conform to the style set forth in The Bluebook, both context and the citation practices of those very courts cast doubt on whether their directives were intended to extend beyond the cite, date, and court components of a case citation to case name abbreviation.  Moreover, in several instances (Alabama, California, Idaho) where a court rule refers to Bluebook style, it also authorizes use of one or more alternative citation guides or speaks of The Bluebook as providing guidance (South Carolina).  In most U.S. jurisdictions, including the federal courts, there are no directives that can reasonably be construed as requiring the use of The Bluebook’s case name abbreviations.  An FAQ at the Supreme Court’s web site states quite explicitly: “The Supreme Court does not have a style manual for advocates before the Court.”  It goes on to suggest those seeking guidance might “search Supreme Court materials for citation to a similar document.”

5. The Supreme Court’s Approach

Anyone following that advice will quickly realize that on this point, as on so many others, the Supreme Court’s citations do not conform to The Bluebook.  To begin, the Court does not abbreviate the first word of party names.  A recent citation of an earlier Supreme Court decision identifies the case as Federal Election Comm’n v. National Conservative Political Action Comm., 470 U.S. 480 (1985).  Per The Bluebook both “Federal” and “National” should be abbreviated.  Indeed, the length of both “Conservative” and “Political” make them candidates for elective abbreviation.  In other respects as well the Court exhibits a gentler approach to abbreviation.  There are numerous words on The Bluebook list it does not regularly abbreviate.  The Supreme Court’s subsequent citations of “Feist” consistently render its case name, which contains three words on The Bluebook’s mandatory list (“Publications”, “Telephone”, and “Service”), as Feist Publications, Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service Co.  A recent citation of Pickering v. Board of Ed. of Township High School Dist. 205, Will Cty., 391 U. S. 563, 568 (1968) abbreviates neither “Township” nor “School” as The Bluebook directs.  Even more significantly, the Court’s citation includes both the name of the township and county which The Bluebook would drop.  It also employs “Cty.” rather than The Bluebook’s “Cnty.” for “County”.  Another case recently cited by the Court is Bank of America Nat. Trust and Sav. Assn. v. 203 North LaSalle Street Partnership, 526 U.S. 434 (1999).  According to The Bluebook that case name should be shrunk to Bank of Am. Nat’l Trust & Sav. Ass’n v. 203 N. Lasalle St. P’ship.  In short, there is only limited correspondence, in degree or detail, between Supreme Court’s use of abbreviations in citations to its own precedent and The Bluebook rules.  Some of the federal circuit and district courts follow the Supreme Court’s lead in this area; many do not.

6. Fifty States, Diverse Styles

A. New York Style

New York’s reporter of decisions has a published style manual.  Since the state’s Law Reporting Bureaus oversees the publication of decisions of New York’s intermediate appellate courts and some trial decisions as well that manual guides the writing of judges throughout the state and indirectly influences the citation practices of lawyers submitting memoranda and briefs to them.  While the New York manual shares The Bluebook’s enthusiasm for abbreviation, containing an even longer list, it takes a different position on one point of style on which reasonable minds (and therefore citation practices) can easily differ.  In forming abbreviations, The Bluebook favors contractions (e.g., “Eng’r” and “Int’l”, though curiously “Envtl.”). Prior to the fourth edition, the competing ALWD Citation Manual used no apostrophes; all its abbreviations ended with periods (e.g., “Engr.” and “Intl.”).  Its fourth edition authorizes use of contractions as an alternative (e.g., “Engr.” or “Eng’r”, “Intl.” or “Int’l”).  Judging from the advance publicity, the stance of the forthcoming fifth edition is likely to be at least as deferential to The Bluebook on this esthetic matter.  But New York courts are not.  With only two exceptions New York style ends abbreviations with a period.  In New York it is “Assn.” not “Ass’n”, “Commr.” not “Comm’r”, “Govt.” not “Gov’t”, “Intl.” not “Int’l”, and so on.

B. Massachusetts and Illinois

The Massachusetts style manual sides with The Bluebook on contractions.  The Illinois manual also agrees that “Association” should be reduced to “Ass’n” but like the University of Chicago manual, it calls for very little abbreviation.  Illinois style restricts case name abbreviations to “Association” and ten other words.  Even words on this short list are to be written in full if they are “the first word in the name of a party.”

C. Michigan

If New York favors periods, Michigan rejects them as altogether unnecessary.  The Michigan Uniform System of Citation includes a number of contractions (e.g., “Ass’n”, “Comm’r”, “Int’l”) but trims the concluding period off all abbreviations.  “Brothers” is “Bros”, “Construction”, “Constr”, and so on.

D. Oregon and California

Oregon’s approach to case names rests on the editorial norms of the source.  Rather than imposing a set of its own abbreviation rules, the Oregon manual incorporates those of the cited jurisdiction by providing that case names be drawn from the running heads of the case’s official reporter or failing that the regional reporter in which it appears.  During the print era this rule, which gives up on uniformity, had the advantage of simplicity.  Now that few writers rely on print reporters, with many actually lacking reasonable access to them, the rule’s explicit prohibition on using Westlaw or LEXIS (or presumably any other electronic source) “as a source for the official case name” is manifestly an anachronism.  By contrast, the California Style Manual steps into the modern era.  Its section 1:1 provides: “Follow exactly the shortened title used in the running head of a paper-based reporter or a shortened title shown in a computer-based source.” (Emphasis added.)

7. What Approach Should the Writer of a Brief or Memo Adopt?

What should an attorney to do in the face of so many different approaches?

A. Be Consistent

First: Be consistent.  California has a distinctive style manual.  A court rule calls for citations to conform to it or, alternatively, to The Bluebook.  It concludes, however: “The same style must be used consistently throughout the document.”

That is a sound principle in any jurisdiction.  In states like Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, and Oregon where judges follow a clear set of abbreviation norms, but lawyers are not directed to adhere to them, the prudent lawyer employs some set of abbreviation principles consistently.  Convenience to the judge may argue for employing the state’s distinctive style, while law school training, available software tools, or the citations provided by the writer’s preferred case law database may point another direction.  A failure to adhere to a single, consistent approach throughout a piece of writing is far more likely to create a negative impression of care than a lawyer’s particular choice of style.

B. Routinize the Process

Second: Avoid devoting serious time to what ought to be routine.  Some find it possible to internalize that routine.  But consistent use of a single digital source for case law should do most if not all of the job.  The major services all impose an acceptable measure of case name uniformity across courts and jurisdictions.  Some make it easier than others to copy the complete citation of a retrieved case, including their rendering of its name, but at worst the step requires a simple block and copy of a case’s title or listing.  Without marketing the fact, Lexis has long provided case names that conformed to Bluebook citation norms (e.g., Bank of Am. Nat’l Trust & Sav. Ass’n v. 203 N. Lasalle St. P’ship).  WestlawClassic conforms to National Reporter System style (e.g., Bank of America Nat. Trust and Sav. Ass’n v. 203 North LaSalle Street Partnership).


westlawnextWestlawNext and Lexis Advance provide ease of citation extraction as a feature, coupled with a measure of style selection.  With WestlawNext the style selected affects how the case name is abbreviated.  In both services “Standard” citation format (code name for Bluebook) is the default but not the sole option.  Presumably, The Bluebook’s registered trademark prevents their identifying its style using the name by which we all know it.

There are also a variety of software tools that offer case name abbreviation along with citation checking and reformatting, but they are a topic large enough to warrant treatment in a later post.