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How to Cite a Court Case in APA Format


When you cite a court case, your readers must be able to read the case themselves to determine if your assessment of the case's holding is accurate. American Psychological Association style is slightly different from the style attorneys use when citing cases in briefs and other legal pleadings, so if you're accustomed to writing citations for attorneys, you'll have to slightly adjust your style.

Use in-text citations to refer to the case and explain its holding. In APA style, case names are abbreviated. Many court cases have dozens of plaintiffs and defendants, but APA -- along with most other citation styles -- requires you to shorten the case to the first plaintiff's name and the first defendant's name, as in Jones v. Smith.

Italicize the case name, with the year that the ruling was issued in the case in parentheses next to the case name. When you refer to the case later in your paper, you can use the first listed name. For example, you might write, "In Jones, the court found..."

Add a references page. Cite the name of the case first followed by the source where you found the case. If the source is a case reporter, put the volume of the reporter before the name of the reporter. The year of the opinion should follow in parentheses, and if you found the case online, the online source should also be in parentheses. For example, a citation might look like this: Jones v. Wilson. 67 Utah 220. (Google Scholar 2002).

About the Author

Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.

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