Parallel print citations in today’s digital environment

Back in the day when case research entailed pulling volumes from a shelf and many states published their own “official” reports, parallel citations fulfilled a useful function. They allowed the reader of a brief, opinion, or journal article to retrieve a cited case by pulling whichever of alternative sets of reports were available.  Reporter name, volume number, and page led straight to the case. True, look-up-tables (West’s  National Reporter Blue Book, Shepard’s Citations) made it possible to determine where a case in volume 50, at page 278 of the official reports could be found in the National Reporter System regional reports and vice versa —  a tedious process but manageable.  But tables did not translate pinpoint citations.  And in most instances publication lag or policy stood in the way of reciprocal star pagination.  In states or during periods when no single reporter furnished full dual citation information, the value of parallel citation rose, but of course so did its cost. To produce complete parallel cites under those conditions a writer had to have access to two sets of books. The late West publishing company produced numerous state-specific offprints of its regional reporters to meet the market need and strong law school libraries maintained dual sets of reporters, at least until the 15th  edition of The Bluebook (1991). That edition broke with the past by authorizing the use of the National Reporter System cite alone in journal articles and seemingly in all other legal writing, except briefs and memoranda submitted to courts “of the deciding state.” Even that exception disappeared in the 17th edition (2000) which simply told practitioners to cite to “reporters preferred by local rules, including any parallel citations to the official state reporter, if required.”

The vendor- and medium-neutral citation schemes proposed during the 1990s by the American Association of Law Libraries and the American Bar Association were purposefully designed to specify cases and passages within them using a single set of identifiers that would work across publications and media, thereby rendering multiple citations unnecessary. However, as a transition measure, reasonable for a period when a fair portion of the legal profession still worked from print case reports (and to soften opposition to the reform), the ABA included the following language in its 1996 resolution:

Until electronic publications of case reports become generally available to and commonly relied upon by courts and lawyers in the jurisdiction [adopting neutral citation], the court should strongly encourage parallel citations, in addition to the [neutral] primary citation …, to commonly used printed case reports.

Most states adopting some form of print-independent citation during this period went beyond “strongly encourage” and required parallel citation to the National Reporter System. A few states also required citation to a continuing set of official print reports. Some neutral citation adopters like North Dakota, but not all (see below), realized that since paragraph numbers attached to decisions by the deciding court traveled with it into print requiring a parallel pinpoint page served no purpose (being both redundant and less precise).

Any need for such deference to National Reporter System volume and page number citation passed years ago. Citation norms or requirements that still call for its use in parallel with a publicly attached citation, whether print-derived or medium-neutral, impose significant costs on all providers of legal information (other than Thomson Reuters) and consequently on their users. Appropriately, the two states most recently adopting neutral citation systems, Colorado (2012) and Illinois (2011), have not insisted on or even affirmatively encouraged parallel citation. Colorado courts will accept either court-attached print-independent or National Reporter System case citations; briefs need not include both.  Illinois Supreme Court Rule 6 mandates use of that state’s new citation scheme; parallel print-derived citations “may be added but [are] not required.”

Present conditions compel those maintaining legal databases to index cases by alternative citation systems where they exist. Consider, as an example, the decision of the Kansas Supreme Court in Kansas Dept. of Revenue v. Powell filed on June 4, 2010. In time that case acquired volume and page numbers, first in the Pacific Reporter (232 P.3d 856) and later in the state-published Kansas Reports (290 Kan. 564).  Either cite will retrieve the decision on: Westlaw, Lexis, Bloomberg Law, Casemaker, Fastcase, Loislaw, or Google Scholar. The first four of those services (including Casemaker, the one available without additional charge to all members of the Kansas Bar Association) have also inserted dual sets of page break notations in that and all other Kansas case files. As a consequence their users can make or follow pinpoint citations employing either the official report or regional reporter’s system. They don’t need both.

Decisions from jurisdictions that have implemented neutral citation schemes employing paragraph numbers arrive embedded with complete citation information. They and their key passages can be retrieved from a full spectrum of legal research services and even the open Web without resort to parallel National Reporter System volume and page numbers. In releasing lawyers from the obligation to furnish parallel citations Colorado and Illinois have simplified case citation without inflicting inconvenience on users of any of the competing legal research services.

States that adopted neutral citation systems a decade or more ago but failed to make a complete break from print-derived citations (see below) should follow the lead of these two recent adopters. Any value parallel citation once had as a transition measure vanished along with printed law reports.

Parallel Citation Requirements in Neutral Citation Jurisdictions

State

Year neutral citation began

Parallel NRS print case citation to be provided, if available

Parallel pinpoint cite page numbers required, if available

Note

Arkansas

2009

Yes

Yes

Arkansas does not use paragraph numbers.

Colorado

2012

No

No

Use of the neutral citation is optional, but if one does use it a parallel print citation is not necessary.

Illinois

2011

No

No

Louisiana

1994

Yes

Yes

Louisiana does not use paragraph numbers.

Maine

1997

Yes

No

Mississippi

1997

No

No

Montana

1998

Yes (and to Montana Reports as well)

No

New Mexico

1997

NRS citation is optional, but parallel citation to New Mexico Reports is mandatory for cases published in it

No

Print publication of the New Mexico Reports ceased with volume 150.  All published decisions have been given neutral citations, retrospectively.

North Dakota

1997

Yes

No

Ohio

2002

Yes (and to Ohio Reports as well)

No

Oklahoma

1997

Yes

No

South Dakota

1996

Yes

No

Utah

1999

Yes

No

Vermont

2003

Yes (and to Vermont Reports as well)

No

Wisconsin

2000

Yes (and to Wisconsin Reports as well)

No

Wyoming

2001

No

No

 Source: Basic Legal Citation § 7-500.

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