Shepard’s Citations

Shepard’s Citations in the United States

Practical Information

A service that tells the lawyer whether statutes and cases to be cited as authority are in fact valid for that purpose. The law is constantly changed by legislative or judicial action. The careful lawyer, therefore, checks upon the present value of each authority sought to be used. A complete American citator system, in both geographical scope and fullness of treatment, is Shepard’s Citations, covering all states and units of the National Reporter series and a special Labor Law Citator. (See also citations (in U.S. law).)


Shepardizing is the process of using one of the almost 200 Shepard’s® citators to identify where and how a legal authority has been referenced by other legal authorities. Researchers may wish to Shepardize legal authorities for a variety of reasons:

  • to determine the current status, including the precedential value, of a particular case, statute, or other legal authority;
  • to expand one’s research by locating citations to subsequent legal authorities and secondary materials including American Law Reports (A.L.R.) annotations and law review articles that have cited a particular case, statute, or other legal authority;
  • to find parallel citations to a particular case.

Purpose of Shepard’s Citations

To prove his point, the lawyer cites a decision contained in a published opinion. Before citing the case, the lawyer wants to know something of its history and subsequent treatment. The lawyer is interested in knowing whether the case has been appealed to a higher court; whether it was affirmed or reversed; whether it has been followed in many other cases: and whether it has been overruled in a subsequent case. Shepard’s Citations is designed to give the lawyer this information.


Shepard’s is available online through the LexisNexis research system. The online version includes references not found in the print volumes, including references to unpublished cases and to additional law review articles. In addition, Shepardizing cases electronically retrieves a comprehensive list of citing references no matter which parallel citation is Shepardized.

Once you have signed on to Lexis:

  • Click on the Shepard’s tab at the top of the main page
  • Enter your citation
  • Select either Shepard’s for Validation (for case history and to make sure your authority is still valid) or Shepard’s for Research (to find cases, law reviews and ALR annotations which have cited your legal reference)
  • Click “Check”

You will retrieve a list of legal materials which have referenced your citation. The full text of these citing references can be viewed by clicking on their hyperlinks. Note that you can choose to see only negative or positive references, or can customize your report by using the highlighted links at the top of your report.

Shepard’s through Lexis is updated daily.

Updating cases using Shepard’s citators in print

In order to exhaustively update American cases, you will need to use either Shepard’s on Lexis-Nexis or KeyCite on Westlaw . Since these online services are not generally available to the public, set out below is a brief description of the procedure for noting up U.S. case law using Shepard’s Citations in print.

  • Carefully note the citation of the case you are updating.
  • Find the case in Shepard’s . The permanent volumes of Shepard’s Citations are bound in burgundy, with cumulative semi-annual monthly supplements in red paperback editions. There are also weekly newsprint updates.
  • Select the volume of Shepard’s that corresponds to your citation volume number. Note that each volume in Shepard’s may index more than one law reporter. The name of the reporter is indexed at the top of the page of the Shepard’s Citator. The volume number of the reporter is indicated in the top margin in bold type. The smaller bold numbers between dashes are the page numbers of the cited case. The citations below the page number are the citing references.
  • Consult the table of abbreviations at the beginning of each Shepard volume to determine the code of the reporter.
  • Remember that to update a case you must look in all the volumes of Shepard’s that deal with the law reporter you are interested in from the time the case was decided.
  • Check the paperback semi-annual and monthly volumes, and the most recent newsprint editions of Shepard’s .

More Detailed

The first step is to select the Shepard’s citator that corresponds to the citation you would like to Shepardize. There are, for example, Shepard’s citators for Federal Statutes, U.S. Citations, California Citations, and Acts & Cases by Popular Name.

Next you must gather all the volumes for your citator. A complete set of a print Shepard’s citator usually includes one or more hardcover maroon volumes, a red paperback cumulative supplement, and a gold annual or semi-annual supplement. A white advance sheet may also be available.

You must check your citation in each of the volumes you have gathered. Many researchers prefer to begin with the most recent supplement and work backwards to the earliest relevant volume. Shepard’s uses its own set of abbreviations (see below) to indicate the treatment given by a citing reference. Check the Table of Abbreviations in the preface of each Shepard’s volume to make sure you understand any abbreviations encountered. Also, remember that the citing reference gives you the page on which your citation is found, not the first page of the document.

Note that when you are Shepardizing cases using the print volumes, you must Shepardize each of the parallel citations to the case to ensure a comprehensive result. For instance, for California cases, you must Shepardize the California Reporter citation, the California Reports or California Appellate Reports citation, and, if present, the Pacific Reporter citation to ensure a comprehensive result.
Because most Shepardizing can now be done electronically, many law libraries have discontinued many of its print subscriptions to Shepard’s citators, including those for the regional reporters and specialized areas of law.


KeyCite®, an online service of Westlaw, is a competitor to Shepard’s and serves the same functions, but has no print counterpart.

Abbreviations used

The following abbreviations were used by Shepard for the purpose of indicating the “Judicial History of Case.”

History of Case:

  • a [affirmed] Same case affirmed on appeal.
  • cc (connected case]Different case from case cited but arising out of same subject matter or intimately connected therewith.
  • D [dismissed] Appeal from same case dismissed.
  • m [modified] Same case modified on appeal.
  • s [same case] Same case as case cited.
  • S (superseded] Substitution for former opinion.

Treatment of Case:

  • c (criticized] Soundness of decision or reasoning in cited case criticized for re asons given.
  • d [distinguished) Case at bar different either in law or fact from case cited, for reasons given.
  • e (explained) Statement of import of decision in cited case. Not merely a restatement of the facts.
  • f (followed) Cited as controlling.
  • h (harmonized) Apparent inconsistency explained and shown not to exist.
  • j (dissenting opinion) Citation in dissenting opinion.
  • L (limited) Refusal to extend decision of cited case beyond precise issues involved.
  • o (overruled) Ruling in cited case expressly overruled.
  • p [parallel) Citing case substantially alike or on all fours with cited case in its law and facts.
  • q (questioned) Soundness of decision or reasoning in cited case questioned.

(Revised by Ann De Vries (1982))

How to use Shepard’s Citations?

For more detailed instructions on using Shepard’s in print, please consult the pamphlet, How to
Shepardize, available at Lexis wesite.

For a meaning of it, read Shepard’s Citations in the Legal Dictionary here. Browse and search more U.S. and international free legal definitions and legal terms related to Shepard’s Citations.

Shepard’s Citations: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Shepard’s Citations. This part provides references, in relation to Shepard’s Citations, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Shepard’s Citations by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Shepard’s Citations and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Shepard’s Citations or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Shepard’s Citations and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Shepard’s Citations. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Shepard’s Citations should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Shepard’s Citations when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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