Federal Law Citation

Citation of Federal Law in the United States

Federal Law Citation introduction

The citation formats differ between federal law and state law, and from state to state. See citing state statutes here.

How to Cite Federal Statutes

How to Cite Federal Statutes in Bluebook

When the citation type is Federal Laws and Regulations, which include citation conventions for the official and unofficial versions of federal statutory and administrative law, including the United States Code, Code of Federal Regulations and the Federal Register, the Bluebook Tables to use are Tables 1.1 & T. 1.2 (pp. 215-228).

The citation elements for citing federal statutes, according to the Bluebook guidelines, are the following, and in the following order:

1. The title number;
2. The code’s abbreviation;
3. The section number of the statute; and
4. The year on the spine of the code volume (not the year the statute became effective).

When the federal laws are published in more than one compilation (like the US Code), the official compilation (like the U.S.C.) should be always listed first, and the unofficial compilations are listed in order of citation preference. When the official compilation has not published the law (since the official U.S. Code tends to run several years -six or less- behind), the rules of citation preference among unofficial compilations are used. Based on these rules, the legal researcher would cite to the US Code Annotated (USCA) before to cite the US Code Service (USCS).

Pocket Parts

A pocket part is an insert that updates a legal work. Pocket parts usually appear in the back of the compilation volumes. Whenever a code section is updated in a pocket part, the legal researcher should cite to the set section modified by the pocket part. In this case, the researcher, in the citation, should modify the date to reflect that he / she isy citing a supplement section.

How to Cite Bills

APA Citation Federal Law

There are only five parts of the reference for federal statutes to create an APA citation for a basic federal statute:

  • the name of the statute,
  • the title number,
  • the name of the source in which you found the statute,
  • the section number(s) of the statute, and
  • the year of the source in which you found the statute.

In this order: Name of the Statute, Title number Source § Section number(s) (Year).

Federal session law citation

Statutes at Large is the official compilation of federal session laws. Session laws are the generic name used for the body of legislation enacted during a session of a legislative body (state or federal). See also the entry about Slip Laws.

Public Laws are referred to by the congress in which they were enacted and their sequential number. For example, in the citation: P.L. 111-369 or Pub L. No. 111-369, the “P.L.” or “Pub. L. No.” are an abbreviation for Public Law; the 1116 refers to the Congress (in this case the 111th Congress) and the 369 identifies it as the 369th public law enacted during that 111th Congress). However, before 1957, Federal session laws were referred to by an assigned chapter number rather than their public law number.

Legal Citation of the Federal Register

Legal citations to the Federal Register may cite only to the Federal Register or may also include citations to the CFR.

When material in the Federal Register will be codified in the CFR and you know where it will be codified, you should enter that information also.


  • 61 Fed. Reg. 45,778 (Aug. 29, 1996) (F.R.L. 5389-9) (to be codified at 40 C.F.R. §§ 745.220-745.239)
  • 63 Fed. Reg. 49,164 (1998) (to be codified at 12 C.F.R. pt. 701)
  • 75 Fed. Reg. at 66,946 (to be codified at 34 C.F.R. § 600.2)
  • 48 Fed. Reg. 42,102, 42,183 (1983) (to be codified at 48 C.F.R. § 14.407-6)

Tax Citation

A helpful citation manual is “TaxCite: A Federal Tax Citation and Reference Manual” (Washington, DC: American Bar Association Section on Taxation, 1995) Reference KF 245.T39. This citation manual has detailed citation forms for tax documents, a “Practitioner’s Guide” for Tax Court briefs, and useful lists including abbreviations for tax serials, countries with which the United States has treaties, and full citations for tax legislation referred to by a popular name. This citation manual may be used as a supplement to other citation books, like “The Bluebook: Uniform System of Citation”.



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