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LRAW Research Spring 2023

Citing Federal Statutes

The purpose of a federal statute citation is to tell the reader where it can be found. Federal statutes or code sections are organized by titles, chapters, subchapters, and sections; however; unlike South Carolina statutes, you do not cite to the chapter or subchapter—you cite only to the title and section(s).

For instructions on how to cite a federal statute generally, see Bluebook Rule B12.1.1. For instructions on citing to multiple sections of a statute, see Rule 3.3(b).


Citing to the United States Code

A full citation to an entire act codified in the United States Code includes:

  1. the official name of the act;
  2. the title number;
  3. the abbreviated name of the code; and
  4. the section numbers in which the act is codified. It may also include,
  5. optionally, the year of the cited code edition (not the year the act was passed).

Securities Act of 1933, 15 U.S.C. §§ 77a-77aa.

Securities Act of 1933, 15 U.S.C. §§ 77a-77aa (2018).


When citing to an individual section or sections of the United States Code, but not the entire act, you drop the name of the act and include only the title number, the abbreviated name of the code, and the section number(s). The parenthetical indicating the year the source was published is optional.

15 U.S.C. § 77a.

15 U.S.C. § 77a (2018).


Citing to an Annotated Code

When citing to a print unofficial code like U.S.C.A. or U.S.C.S., you must include the name of the publisher. The date of publication remains optional. (Rules B12.1.1 & 12.3.1(d)):

15 U.S.C.A. § 77a (West).
15 U.S.C.A. § 77a (West 2009).
15 U.S.C.S. § 77a (LexisNexis).
15 U.S.C.S. § 77a (LexisNexis 2012).

When citing to U.S.C.A. or U.S.C.S. in Westlaw or Lexis, respectively, provide the name of the database and the currency of that database (Rule 12.5(a)):

15 U.S.C.A. § 77a (Westlaw through Pub. L. No. 116-32).
15 U.S.C.S. § 77a (LEXIS through Pub. L. No. 116-78).


Parts of a Citation to a Federal Statute

 

Name of the Act

When citing to an entire Act, include the statute's name as it appears in the official title of the act, but omit "The" as the first word in a statute's name. Include the year of the act if it is used in the official title (see above).

 

Title, Code, and Section(s)

When citing to an individual statute, multiple statutes, or an entire act, include the title, code, and section(s). Do not cite to chapter(s) or subchapter(s).

Federal statutes may be cited to a current official or unofficial code. The 20th edition of The Bluebook required citing to the official code "whenever possible," but the 21st edition of the Bluebook has softened that language, stating that citing the official code is "preferable, but not required." (Rule 12.1).

The official federal code is the United States Code, abbreviated U.S.C.

Unofficial, annotated versions of the federal code include U.S.C.A. (United States Code Annotated) and U.S.C.S. (United States Code Service).

 

Parenthetical Indicating the Year the Source Was Published

It is optional to include the year in a parenthetical for a citation to a federal statute. If the year is included, remember that the year indicates the year the cited code volume or supplement was published, not the year the statute was passed or amended.

Using the History Line of a Federal Statute Online to Cite to the Official Print U.S. Code

You can use the history line of a federal statute that you retrieve online to determine if it has been amended since the last revision of the official print United States Code. If it has not, you can confidently cite to the latest revision year. 

For example, the history line below for 18 U.S.C. § 1514A, retrieved from the website maintained by the Office of the Law Revision Counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives, shows that the statute was last amended by Public Law 111-203 on July 21, 2010. 

(Added Pub. L. 107–204, title VIII, §806(a), July 30, 2002, 116 Stat. 802; amended Pub. L. 111–203, title IX, §§922(b), (c), 929A, July 21, 2010, 124 Stat. 1848, 1852.)


The official print United States Code was revised in 2018; therefore, you can c
ite the statute as:

 18 U.S.C. § 1514A (2018).

Had the history line shown that the statute was amended after the 2018 revision of the U.S. Code, to cite to the official print U.S. Code, you would need to check to see if all or part of the amended statute was published in the latest print hardbound supplement (Supp. 1-V).

Examples of Federal Statute Citations to the Official Print U.S. Code:

A new edition of the official print United States Code is published every six years.  The current U.S. Code is the 2018 edition. Five annual hardbound volumes will supplement the 2018 U.S. Code before the next edition. The dates for the official code and its supplements appear on the spine of each volume. 

The citation examples below are possible citations for the Sarbanes Oxley whistleblower statute. The garnet bullets in the citations signify spaces

Citing to the Official U.S. Code

Citing to statutory language found in the main volume of the Code only.

       18U.S.C.§1514A(a)(2018).
Citing to statutory language found in a supplement to the Code only. 18U.S.C.§1514A(e)(Supp.I2019).

Citing to all sections of the statute found in both the main volume of the Code and
a supplement to the Code.

 

(ex. Subsections (a)-(d) of the code section are in the main volume, while subsection (e) of the code section is in the supplement).

18U.S.C.§1514A(2018&Supp.I2019).

 

Short Forms

Use a full citation the first time you cite a statute in a legal memo or brief. Then use a short form for subsequent citations to that same statute. Rules B12.2 and 12.10(b) include tables illustrating the acceptable short forms for statutes.

The general rule is that you may use "id." to refer to a statute codified within the same title as the statute cited in the immediately preceding citation. For example, if you cite to 18 U.S.C. § 1514A, and your next citation cites again to § 1514A, you can cite it as Id. 

When you've cited the statute in full and then go back to cite it again, after an intervening cite to another authority, you may not use Id. If the second citation to § 1514A is still part of the same general discussion, you may use "any short form that clearly identifies" the source. B12.2. For example, the table at Rule 12.10(b) suggests the short forms 18 U.S.C. § 1514A or § 1514A. If it is not part of the same general discussion, you must use a full citation again.

Because the year is optional, there is a full citation form option that is identical to a short form option.

Full citation form, option 1: 18 U.S.C. § 1514A (2018).
Full citation form, option 2: 18 U.S.C. § 1514A.
Short form if you cited § 1514A in the immediately preceding citation:  Id.
Short form if there was an intervening citation, but part of the same general discussion, option 1: 18 U.S.C. § 1514A.
Short form if there was an intervening citation, but part of the same general discussion, option 2: § 1514A.