How to Cite a Lawsuit in APA
Since APA format often applies to papers and publications in the social sciences and criminology, writers in such fields may need to cite lawsuits. As explained in the sixth edition of the "Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association," APA documentation indicates what information you borrowed from other sources and helps the reader find those sources.
APA in-text citations typically include the author's last name and the year of publication. Since lawsuits do not have authors, give the names of those involved instead. The names appear in italics with "v." (without the quotation marks) between followed by the year the suit was adjudicated. The entire citation may be parenthetical, with a comma between the names and date:
(Jones v. Zimmer [italicized], 1990).
Alternatively, you may use the principals in a signal phrase:
As illustrated in Jones v. Zimmer (italicized) (1990).
The References page entry begins with the information used in the in-text citation. Therefore, for a lawsuit, the entry starts with the names of the litigants, but not in italics. After a comma, give the volume number, abbreviated name of the source and page number with no punctuation between. The entry ends with the name of the court and the adjudication date in parentheses with no punctuation between. Such an entry might look like this:
Jones v. Zimmer, 522 F. Supp. 275 (D. Minn. 1990).
This entry is for the case of Jones v. Zimmer, found in volume 522 of the Federal Supplement publication starting on page 275. The district court of Minnesota in 1990.
If you reference a case that was appealed, the References page entry needs to add information about the appeal status. After the case name, volume, publication, page, court and year of the original, place a comma and write "aff'd," in italics if the case was affirmed or "rev'd" to indicate it was reversed. Then add a comma, the volume, publication and page it begins with no punctuation and then the court and date of the appellate decision in parentheses. An entry might look like this:
Jones v. Zimmer, 522 F. Supp. 275 (D. Minn. 1990), aff'd, (italicized) 636 F.2d 432 (10th Cir. 1994).
This entry explains that the original decision was appealed and affirmed by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in 1994. The writer found the information in the Federal Reporter 2d, volume 636, starting on page 432.
Writers unfamiliar with legal publications may be concerned about how to abbreviate names of cases, reporters and litigants in APA style. Common abbreviations include "S. Ct." for Supreme Court, a number and "Cir." indicating a certain Circuit Court of Appeals, and "F.2d" for the Federal Reporter, second series.
Geographical areas typically use the first letters as abbreviations, such as "N.W." for North Western. Abbreviations for states may differ from the typical postal abbreviations. For instance, Hawaii uses "Haw." and Alaska is spelled out.
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- Purdue Online Writing Lab: APA Style Workshop
- Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association; American Psychological Association
- The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (19th edition); The Harvard Law Review Association
Kristie Sweet has been writing professionally since 1982, most recently publishing for various websites on topics like health and wellness, and education. She holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of Northern Colorado.