Citing Lawsuits in APA Format

Papers written in the social sciences and criminology often reference legal materials such as lawsuits, and these fields typically use APA documentation style. As discussed in the sixth edition, second printing, of the "Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association," as with any citation, the citation for a lawsuit should help your reader find the source of your information.


Usually, APA in-text references list the author’s last name and the year of publication. Since a lawsuit does not have an author, the citation for a lawsuit gives the italicized names of the principal members of the suit with “v.” (without the quotation marks) between them, a comma and the year of the suit. A parenthetical citation might look like this: (Anders v. Johnson [italicized], 1990). You may choose to give the names in a signal phrase instead, followed by the year in parentheses: Anders v. Johnson (italicized) (1990).


The entry on the References page begins with the names of the litigants, but they are not italicized on the References page. Place a comma after the names and then list the volume number, the title of the source in abbreviated form and the page the entry begins on, putting no punctuation between the portions. Then the court and the adjudication date appear in parentheses, with no punctuation between. Such an entry might look like this:

Anders v. Johnson, 522 F. Supp. 275 (D. Minn. 1990).

This entry is for the case of Anders v. Johnson, found in volume 522 of the Federal Supplement publication starting on page 275. It was adjudicated in the district court of Minnesota in 1990.