How to cite case footnotes

Updated April 17, 2017

Judges, lawyers, paralegals and law clerks are accustomed to reading legal documents. These are items such as briefs, law journals, treatises or memoranda. If you prepare such items, it is essential to follow citation principles. This ensures the material can be readily procured and reviewed for the person requiring the information. This time-saving device translates into more productive billing hours, which is the goal of all court officers preparing for trials. Writing footnotes in cases is drastically different from writing footnotes for ordinary research. A cite case footnote, the legal phrase for a reference, is part of the sentence if it directly relates to the statement. If it relates to a quotation, however, the citation goes right after the sentence. This specific placement is designed to make recovery of the relevant case easy to retrieve.

Write the names of the parties involved (separated with a "v") and either underline or italicise them. The "v" stands for verses or opposing parties. Add a comma afterward, for example, "Kramer v Kramer,".

Add the address or ID for the case. Check legal references, called reporters, where cases are published. Write the volume number of the reporter followed by a space, the abbreviated name of the reporter followed by a space and the first page of the case in the volume followed by a comma. For example, "Kramer v Kramer, 4200 WI 30,".

Pinpoint a specific portion of an opinion by following the volume number and case ID with the paragraph number(s) and page number(s) of the opinion. For example, "Kramer v Kramer, 4200 WI 30, 378 Wis. 2d 420,". Courts that have implemented a medium-neutral citation, meaning CD ROM or electronic and printed formats, require the North Western Reporter be used for the address of the case. Cite the volume number, then abbreviate North Western Reporter as N.W. and add the paragraph number(s) and page number(s) of the opinion. For example, "Kramer v Kramer, 4200 WI 30, 378 Wis. 2d 420, 412 N.W. 2d 35".

Add the date, enclosed in parenthesis. This is when the decision was reached. For example, "Kramer v Kramer, 4200 WI 30, 378 Wis. 2d 420, 412 N.W. 2d 35 (1999)".

List the court where the decision was made, inside the parenthesis before the date, only if it is not been adequately identified by the reporter or case ID. In this example--"Kramer v Kramer, 4200 WI 30, 378 Wis. 2d 420, 412 N.W. 2d 35 (1999)"--it is not necessary because Wisconsin has already been listed. If a listing is required, the court name is abbreviated and followed by the year within the parentheses. For example, a decision made at the Kansas Supreme court would read "(Kan. 1982)" and a decision from the Kansas Court of Appeals would read, "Kan. Ct. App. 1984)".

Write the legal text. Follow sentence structure rules. Citation sentences start with a capital letter and end with periods. Embed the citation footnote within the text when it relates to a portion of the sentence. If the reference or quote is at the end of a sentence, the citation footnote can be after the period.


The traditional authority for cite case footnoting is "The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation." A more expansive source for cite case footnoting is ALWD Citation Manual. The Association of Legal Writing Directors put its citation manual together to include electronic case reports.


Be thorough when citing cases. Proofread your documents before sending them on. Follow the procedures of the firm where you work.

Things You'll Need

  • Computer with Internet access
  • Published law reports
  • Online system of case and law reports
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About the Author

Clara Chavez is a freelance writer with 25 years diverse writing experience. She writes articles, inspirational messages, theatrical scripts, songs, screenplays, short stories, novels, grants and creates educational material. Chavez earned her undergraduate degree in Radio/Televison/Film from California State University, Northridge.