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CoLPS: Legal Resources

This guide contains legal resources available in NU Library which supports curriculum and teaching for NU specializations.

Understanding Legal Resources

When looking for legal materials, first determine the jurisdiction and branch of government. Who has jurisdiction (is it a Federal, state or local issue)? Then, decide if the answer can be found within a statute, court opinion (case) or regulation. Once you have determined the answers to these questions, you can look for the answer within the appropriate legal resource:

  • Cases (Federal or state case reporters)
  • Statutes (Federal, state, municipal or county codes)
  • Regulations (Code of Federal Regulations - CFR, State Administrative Codes, or Local Ordinances)

Primary Sources - the rules of law. Include the version of the Federal or state government's Constitution, statutes, court opinions (case law) or administrative regulations that those jurisdictions recognize as having what is known as "primary authority." 

While there are a variety of types of laws that govern, there is a hierarchy to the U.S. legal system.

The legal pyramid is as follows:

I.  Constitution

II.  Statutes

III.  Administrative Regulations (carry the same weight as statutes)

IV.  Case law (court opinions)

Secondary Sources - these sources provide analysis and commentary about aforementioned primary sources. These are helpful in locating and explaining the law. 

  • Legal Dictionaries
  • Legal Encyclopedias
  • Law Reviews
  • Annotated Law Reports
  • Treatises, Hornbooks and Nutshells
  • Restatements of the Law


Bluebook Formatting Guidelines

  • Title page is not required
  • Reference page is not required
  • Recommended font: Times New Roman 12 point

Basic Case Citation

The format of a case citation is dependent on the following factors:

  • Jurisdiction
  • Court
  • Type of Case


Anatomy of a Case Citation



If you are directing your reader to a specific quotation or holding, you would point to the "pinpoint" in the case by including a comma and the location. The pinpoint is inserted after the first page of the reporter number. If you are generally referring to a citation, referring to the citation for background support, or including it within your reference page, you would not use a pinpoint citation.


Basic Statutory Citation Format

Federal Statutes

The United States Code (U.S.C.) is the official code for federal statutes. The unofficial codes for federal statutes include: United States Code Annotated (U.S.C.A.)  and United States Code Service (U.S.C.S.)Most often, you will need to cite to either of these unofficial codes because Congress enacts new laws and amends and repeals existing laws frequently. The current version of the statute will not appear in the United States Code until the official publication is updated with the cumulative supplement. A new print edition is published every six years and is updated annually through cumulative supplements. 

The format of a statutory citation is dependent on the following factors:

  • Title Number
  • Code Abbreviation (see abbreviations listed above)
  • Section number preceded by the symbol (§) and a space
  • Year of the code*
    • The date in the citation is the year of the code edition cited as it appears on the spine of the print volume or the title page (electronic versions). It is not the year a statute was enacted or last amended. 


25 U.S.C. § 1 (2020)

State Statutes

Though this citation format is similar to the federal statutory citation, each format varies by state. 

Basic Bluebook Format for California Statutes


To determine the subject of the code, look at the title of the section within Westlaw or Lexis Advance. *Please refer to The Bluebook  for the format to cite statutory codes on Westlaw, Lexis, and other commercial databases. 


Basic Regulation Citation Format

Federal Register Format

Name of Regulation, Federal Register (abbreviation) page number (Date of Issue) (to be codified at Title number C.F.R. pt. #)


Food Labeling: Reference Daily Intakes, Fed. Reg. 427 (January 4, 1994) (to be codified at 21 CFR 101)

Code of Federal Regulations Format

The citation to a U.S. federal regulation includes the following elements:

  • Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) title number
  • C.F.R. (abbreviation for the Code of Federal Regulations)
  • Section symbol and number
  • Date of code edition cited

For example, to cite the section of the code that identifies the definitions of horse protection regulations, you would cite the following: 

9 C.F.R. § 11.1 (2020)

Legal Citations

To create a Bluebook citation within Westlaw:

  1. Highlight the desired text within the document
  2. A dialog box will automatically appear. Click on Copy with Reference (Standard)
  3. Text is copied message will automatically appear
  4. Paste the text into a Word document.undefined