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Dissing the Bluebook

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Judge Richard Posner has a second article criticizing "the Bluebook," the citation form manual jointly published by several law schools and used by most law reviews outside Chicago.  The first article was published in 1986 and titled "Goodbye to the Bluebook," a title Judge Posner now recognizes was naive.  The article is entertaining if you dislike the Bluebook, though I doubt any of you dear readers dislike it as intensely as Judge Posner does.  Eugene Volokh and Ilya Somin have posts at VC.

I find that a surprising number of law students and recent graduates think the Bluebook is Holy Writ and that all other forms of citation are "wrong."  I once received a letter from a rookie opposing counsel who made a snotty reference to the "poor citation style" in my brief.  In fact, the brief in question scrupulously cited authorities in the style of the official reporter for the court in which it was filed, as do all CJLF briefs.

California attorneys must unlearn the Bluebook-as-Gospel fallacy immediately upon graduation.  Our state courts have their own style manual, which is quite different from the Bluebook.

The most prestigious organization to ignore the Bluebook is, of course, the Supreme Court of the United States.  Unlike the California courts, they don't publish their own style manual for the public, but they do have one internally.  Read the slip opinions or the bound volumes on the Court's website, and you will see that they do not follow the Bluebook.  CJLF's U.S. Supreme Court briefs also follow the Court's style, not the Bluebook, to the extent we can infer their rules from the opinions.

The Bluebook may be followed by nearly everyone in academia, but not in the judiciary.  Neither the nation's highest court nor the courts of the largest state follow it.  We use it at CJLF only for articles in law reviews that require it and for briefs in the federal courts of appeals, which apparently follow it.

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My state courts also eschew the Bluebook, which I was thrilled to learn upon becoming a practicing attorney. Great article.

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