APA 7 Citations: Legal and Government Documents

This guide replaces the APA Citations guide for the 6th edition.

Parts of a Legal Reference

Cases or Court Decisions include the following information:

  • title or name of the case (e.g., Brown v. Board of Education);
  • citation, usually to a volume and page of the reporter where published.
  • precise jurisdiction of the court writing the decision (e.g., Supreme Court, New York Court of Appeals) in parentheses.
  • date of the decision, in parentheses (in the same set of parentheses as the jurisdiction, if both are present); and
  • URL from which you retrieved the case information (optional, but it may aid readers in retrieval).

When a reference list entry for a case or court decision includes a page number, provide only the first page number.

The template to format decisions
from the U.S. Supreme Court:

Reference list:
Name v. Name, Volume Number U.S. Page Number (Year). URL

  • Parenthetical citation: (Name v. Name, Year)
  • Narrative citation: Name v. Name (Year)

NOTE: Unlike other reference types, the title or name of a court case is not italicized in the reference list entry and it is italicized in the in-text citation.

The template for federal or state statutes:

Reference list:
Name of Act, Title Source § Section Number (Year). URL

  • Parenthetical citation: (Name of Act, Year)
  • Narrative citation: Name of Act (Year)

See the example in the Statutes box on this page!

Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School

Miscellaneous Notes about Legal References

Information about legal references are in Chapter 11, pages 314, 355-368, in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 7th ed.

"Guidelines from The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation continues to be the foundation for APA Style Legal references, with some modifications." Legal style is notably different from other APA references.

"Most legal references (e.g., court cases and laws) are formatted in a legal reference style."

"Existing legal references are usually already written in legal style and require few, if any change for an APA style reference list entry. "...some court decisions are reported in multiple places, which is called parallel citation. When a work has parallel citations, include all citations in your reference list entry.

Each reference form usually includes a popular or formal title or name of the legislation and the reference information, which is called the citation. Please note that the term "citation" is used differently for legal references than it is in standard APA style. This is not the same as "in-text citation."

  • Order of elements in the Legal style reference list entry - title, source, and date.
  • In-text citation for a legal reference - usually the title and year.
  • Version being referenced - the version of record as published in an official legal publication such as the United States Code or the Federal Register, plus a URL (optional) for the version used.
  • Use of standard abbreviations - Used for common legal entities and publications (e.g., "S." for the Senate and "H.R." for the House of Representatives).

The in-text citation for a legal work is created from the reference list entry. Most legal reference entries begin with the title of the work, thus, most in-text citations consist of the title and the year (e.g., Americans With Disabilities Act, 1990; Brown v. Board of Education, 1954). If titles are long, shorten them for the in-text citation.

Constitutions & Charters -Reference and In-text Citation Examples

Constitutions and Charters

"To cite a whole federal or state constitution, a citation is not necessary. Simply refer to the constitution in text."

Create reference list entry and in-text citations for citations to articles and amendments of constitutions. Abbreviate U.S. Constitution to "U.S. Const." and use the legal state abbreviation for a state constitution.

U.S. Constitution article and amendment numbers are Roman Numerals. State constitution article numbers are also Roman numerals, but state constitution amendment numbers are Arabic numerals.

Article of the U.S. Constitution

Template: U.S. Const. art. xxx, § x.

Reference example:

U.S. Const. art. II, § 4.

  • Parenthetical citation: (U.S. Const. art II, § 4)
  • Narrative citation: Article 1, Section 4, of the U.S. Constitution

Article of a state constitution

Reference example:

S.C. Cons., art. XI, § 3

  • Parenthetical citation:(S.C. Const. art. IX § 3)
  • Narrative citation: Article IX, Section 3, of the South Carolina Constitution

Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Template: U.S. Const. amend. xxx.

Reference example:

U.S. Const. amend. XIII.

  • Parenthetical citation:: (U.S. Const. amend. XIII)
  • Narrative citation: Amendment XIII to the U.S. Constitution

For more information see pages 366-368 in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 7th ed.

Supreme Court Cases - Reference and In-text Citation Examples

Cases

U.S. Supreme Court case, with a page number: 

Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954). https://www.oyez.org/cases/1940-1955/347us483

  • Parenthetical citation: (Brown v. Board of Education, 1954)
  • Narrative citation: Brown v. Board of Education (1954)

U.S. Supreme Court case, without a page number

Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ___ (2015). https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/14-556_3204.pdf

  • Parenthetical citation: (Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015)
  • Narrative citation: Obergefell v. Hodges (2015)

Note: For cases that have not been assigned a page number, include three underscores (as shown in the reference example immediately above) instead of the page number in the reference list entry.

More examples of cases can be found on pages 357-361 in the Publication Manual, 7th ed.

Statutes - Reference and In-text Citation Examples

Statutes (Laws and Acts)

Federal statute, Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990

Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (1990). https://www.ada.gov/pubs/adastatute08.htm

  • Parenthetical citation: (Americans With Disabilities Act, 1990)
  • Narrative citation: Americans With Disabilities Act (1990)

More examples of statutes can be found on pages 361-363 in the Publication Manual, 7th ed.

Legislative Materials

Included are federal testimony, hearings, bills, resolutions, reports, and related documents. Below is an example of an unenacted federal bill or resolution:

To temporarily provide for Federal insurance of transaction accounts during the COVID-19 emergency, H. R. 6380, 116th Cong. (2020). https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/6380

  • Parenthetical citation: (To temporarily provide for Federal insurance of transaction accounts during the COVID-19 emergency, 2020)
  • Narrative citation: To temporarily provide for Federal insurance of transaction accounts during the COVID-19 emergency (2020)

More examples can be found on pages 363-365 in the Publication Manual, 7th ed.

Administrative and Executive Materials - Reference and In-text Citation Examples

Administrative and Executive Materials

Included are rules and regulations, advisory opinions, and executive orders.

Template: Title or number, Volume C.F.R. § xxx (Year). URL

Official federal regulations are published in the Code of Federal Regulations Code of Federal Regulations (Annual Edition) or the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. In the reference, provide the title or number of the regulation, the volume number in which the regulation appears in the Code of Federal Regulations, the abbreviation "C.F.R.," the section number, and the year in which the regulation was codified. If the regulation is available online, provide the URL.

Federal Regulation, codified

Protection of Human Subjects, 45 C.F.R. § 46 (2020). https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=58d96a013d3e34979d7d98ede819e917&mc=true&node=pt45.1.46&rgn=div5

  • Parenthetical citation: (Protection of Human Subjects, 2020)
  • Narrative citation: Protection of Human Subjects (2020)

Federal Regulation, not yet codified

If the regulation has not yet be codified in the Code of Federal Regulations, it will appear in the Federal Register first.  Indicate this by the abbreviation F.R. instead of "C.F.R." Also include the  section of the Code of Federal Regulations where the proposed rule will be codified. 

Template:

Title or Number, Volume F.R. Page (proposed Month Day, Year) (to be codified at Volume C.F.R. § xxx). URL

See the example on page 365, in the Publication Manual, 7th ed.

Executive order

Template: Exec. Order No. xxxxx, 3 C.F.R. Page (Year). URL

The example below was created on March 23, 2020 and has not yet been published in the Code of Federal Regulations and was found in the Federal Register. It is President Trump's order "Preventing Hoarding of Health and Medical Resources to Respond to the Spread of COVID-19."

Reference list:

Exec. Order 13,910, 85 F.R. 17001 (2020) https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/03/26/2020-06478/preventing-hoarding-of-health-and-medical-resources-to-respond-to-the-spread-of-covid-19

  • Parenthetical citation: (Exec. Order No. 13,910, 2020)
  • Narrative citation: Executive Order No. 12,910 (2020)

Treaties and International Conventions - Reference and In-text Citation Examples

Treaties and International Conventions

References should include the name of the treaty, convention, or other agreement; the signing or approval date; and a URL, if available. Provide the name of the treaty or convention and the year in your in-text citations.

The North Atlantic Treaty, April 4, 1949, https://www.nato.int/nato_static_fl2014/assets/pdf/stock_publications/20120822_nato_treaty_en_light_2009.pdf

  • Parenthetical citation:(The North Atlantic Treaty, 1949)
  • Narrative citation: The North Atlantic Treaty (1949)

Patents - Reference and In-text Citation Examples

Patents

Patent references include the author (inventor), (year). title, patent number, and source. Citations include the inventor and year.

Reference list: Inventor, A.A. (Year Patent Issued). Title of patent (U.S. Patent No. x,xxx,xxx). U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. URL

Here's link to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (a truly challenging place to search!).

Here's an example of a patent issued in 2016

Hiremath, S.C., Kumar, S., Lu, F., & Alehi, A. (2016). Using metaphors to present concepts across different intellectual domains. (U.S. Patent No. 9,367,592). U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-bool.html&r=1&f=G&l=50&co1=AND&d=PTXT&s1=9367592.PN.&OS=PN/9367592&RS=PN/9367592

  • Parenthetical citation: (Hiremath et al., 2016)
  • Narrative citation: Hiremath et al. (2016)

Privacy & Confidentiality StatementLibrary Code of Conduct