• 3-minute read
  • 21st May 2016

Bluebook Legal Referencing – Citing Federal Statutes

The Bluebook sets out uniform conventions for referencing legal documents, so anyone studying US law will want to be familiar with the Bluebook system. We’ve previously looked at citing cases with this system, but today we’ll move on to using Bluebook referencing to cite federal statutes.

The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation

Citing Federal Statutes

Citing a federal statute typically involves referring to the United States Code (commonly abbreviated to “U.S.C.”). For instance, the basic format for a statutory citation is as follows:


Code Abbreviation

Section (§)






You’ll then include citations either in the text (or in a footnote) immediately after the relevant passage, using an appropriate signal if necessary.

The rest of this post will examine each of these elements in more detail.

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Title Number

The “title” of a federal statute is typically reduced to just the title number of the relevant section in the United States Code. In addition to this, you should provide the official name of the statute if:

  1. You’re citing the entire act as it appears in the United States Code.
  2. It is conventional to cite that particular statute in full.
  3. Providing the full name will aid identification of the material cited.

For example, you could cite the entirety of the Copyright Act of 1976 (title number 17 in the United States Code) as follows:

Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. §§ 101-1332 (2012)

Code Abbreviation

The code abbreviation indicates the jurisdiction under which a statute has been implemented. State statutes require you to know the code of the state in question, but if you’re citing a federal statute the main code you’ll need is “U.S.C.” (short for “United States Code”).

However, if you’re citing a statute that hasn’t yet been published in the U.S.C., you can also cite the United States Code Annotated (U.S.C.A.) or the United States Code Service (U.S.C.S.).

Section Number

This is simply a number to show the section you’re citing, indicated using the section symbol (§) and the relevant number. If citing more than one section, use “§§” and the complete range of sections being cited (e.g., §§ 101-1332).

Date of Code Edition

The bracketed date in a Bluebook citation refers to the year the copy of the code you’re using was published. You’ll therefore need to check your edition of the U.S.C. when citing a federal statute.

You should also include the publisher alongside the year of publication if citing either the U.S.C.A. or U.S.C.S. As such, we would cite the LexisNexis-published version of a legal code like this:

14 U.S.C.S §37a (LexisNexis 2012)

And if you’d like anyone to check the referencing in a piece of legal writing, Proofed has experts available in a range of legal citation styles.

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