What the Committee Report did:
The 1996 ABA Special Committee report:
- recommended a format for universal citation based on ease of use for both printed and electronic case law, and
- rebutted arguments against universal citation.
In August 1996, the ABA adopted the committee's recommendation of a universal citation format to include:
- the year,
- a designator of the court, preferably the 2-letter postal abbreviation,
- the sequential number of the decision, and
- a pinpoint paragraph number.
The committee recommended including a parallel citation to a case's first page only in a reporter in print; parallel citation to any later pinpoint page numbers in the printed reporter should no longer be required. This was a compromise between print and electronic, because printed case reporters were still getting significant use in 1996.
Example of a pinpoint citation, from Appendix A to the 1996 ABA Special Committee report:
Smith v. Jones, 1996 MD 15, ¶ 23, 696 A.2d 321.
Rebutted Arguments against Universal Citation
Argument 1. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it--it ain't broke."
Committee Response: The traditional citation system does not "afford a citation suited to the electronic publication of a court decision when it is first released to the public. Printed volume and page numbers are not available until weeks or months later. ... The universal citation system recommended by the committee is intended to meet this problem."
Argument 2. A universal citation is a "citation to nowhere" because it does not identify the source of the citation.
Committee Response: "In fact, the recommended citation system is the ultimate citation to somewhere, because it is a citation directly to the court's decision in the form in which it was released by the court."
Argument 3. "Formidable burdens will be imposed if courts are responsible for assigning sequential numbers to their decisions and numbering the paragraphs."
Committee Response: Since Louisiana, South Dakota, and many Canadian courts "have already implemented such systems, and major print publishers, including West Publishing Co., have begun printing reports using those systems, the committee concludes that no insurmountable burdens are involved."