Introduction to Law

Understanding Case Citation

Case citation is citing references used by legal professionals. It helps them to understand the decisions of the case. There are three parts of case citation – Volume, reported designation and page number. It gives information like the date of the case, what was the decisions of that case, and other information related to the case. Let us understand the case citation in detail.

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Understanding Case Citation

Features of Case Citation

  • Case Name
  • Volume No.
  • Name of Reporter
  • Beginning Page
  • Year of Decision

It’s important that citations follow a standard format so that whoever is trying to read them will find it easy to understand. Citation formats are there for many different legal matters which include cases, statutes and secondary legal materials. Citations also help lawyers and students to easily look up case files and documents they are searching in a pile of other documents.

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Knowing and understanding case citation is a very important skill for anyone who is studying, researching or involved with legal matters. These features help the reader understand the aspects and information about the case and moreover, get basic information at a glance.

The diagram given below will help you figure out how to read and interpret the basics of a case citation.

Case Citation


The above citation gives us information about a case called Furman versus Georgia which was decided in 1972. It can be found on volume 408 of United States Reports, starting on page 238. So we got all that information about a case out of just one line of citation. That’s how effective case citations are.

Some Variations When Using Case Citation

  • When one is using a direct quote from a case, it is imperative to give the number of the specific page on which the quote has been printed. If that is the situation, the case citation would look like this: Furman vs Georgia,408U.S.238,240(1972)
  • Federal appeals court (circuit courts) are located in one of twelve districts. It is important to add the specific district as follows: Cooper versus Pate, 382 F.2d 443 (7th Cir 1967)
  • A total of ninety-four federal district courts are spread throughout the United States of America. There is a minimum of at least one federal district court in each state.
  • The larger states have as many as four federal district courts. In such a case the specific district should be mentioned: Howard versus the United States, 864 F.Supp 1019(D. Colo. 1994)

Case Name

Generally, there are two names given for a case. This is to explain the parties involved. The first name is meant to identify the party which is bringing the court action and the name placed second is the name of the party against whom the action is being brought.

In almost all criminal law cases, the action is usually brought by the State against a person ( For eg. Rahul versus State of Madhya Pradesh). The defendant will, however, not always remain the same.

For e.g. in the case of Furman vs Georgia, Furman was initially a defendant in a murder case. In turn, Furman appealed against his conviction, and thus he became the person who was taking action against the State.

Year of Decision

The year in which the court delivers the decision is thus called the year of decision. It is not necessary that the year of the decision will be the same as the year when the case was originally presented.

Solved Question for you.

Question: Interpret the following case citation: Martin vs Texas, 346 U.S. 282 (1984)

Answer. These are the details of the above-given case citation

Name of the Case – Martin vs Texas.

Volume Number – 346

Name of Reporter – U.S.

Beginning Page – 346.

Year of Decision – 1984.


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