Friday 5: A Crash Course in Better Citation
Following up on Michael Heatherly’s excellent five-step approach to better writing published last week, I wanted to focus on another common problem: citation errors. Washington courts generally follow the 19th edition of The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation, but with some key changes. All of the official Washington-specific citation rules appear in the style sheet created by the Office of Reporter of Decisions, filed as an appendix to GR 14.1. Here are five of the most common citation errors Washington attorneys make — and how to avoid them.
Do not underline case names.
Underlining case names is a relic of the days when typewriters couldn’t italicize. Even with modern word processing in the last 20 years, attorneys and judges alike continue to underline case names. The Washington style sheet states: “Case names should be in italics no matter where or how they are used.”
Use Washington-specific abbreviations.
Under The Bluebook, the Washington Reports and Washington Appellate Reports are abbreviated as “Wash. 2d” and “Wash. App.,” respectively. However, under the Washington style sheet, these are to be abbreviated as “Wn.2d” and “Wn. App.” Note that “Wn.2d” has no space in it, but “Wn. App.” does.
Always parallel cite.
Both The Bluebook and the Washington style sheet require parallel citations to the official reports (Wn.2d or Wn. App.), and to the regional reporter (P./P.2d/P.3d). The Bluebook requires pinpoint citations to both the official reports and the regional reporter, but the Washington style sheet states that pinpoint citations to the regional reporter are optional.
Parallel cite SCOTUS cases.
The Bluebook allows for citation to just the U.S. reporter, but the Washington style sheet requires parallel citations to the Supreme Court Reporter and the Lawyer’s Edition as well.
Know when to capitalize.
Articles and sections of the United States Constitution are capitalized (e.g., “The United States Supreme Court is created by Article III, Section 1”). However, articles and sections of the state constitution are not capitalized (e.g., “No person shall be disturbed in his private affairs without authority of law under article I, section 7.”). Furthermore, when referring to a state supreme court, capitalize “supreme court” only when part of the full title of the court (e.g. “Washington Supreme Court” or “Supreme Court of Washington”). Do not capitalize if referring to a state supreme court in any other manner (e.g. “Washington’s supreme court ruled that law unconstitutional”). Always capitalize “Supreme Court” if referring to the United States Supreme Court, regardless of usage.