Legal Dictionary


Legal Definition of citation


  1. An order of a court to either do a certain thing or to appear before it to answer charges. The citation is typically used for lesser offences (such as traffic violations) because it relies on the good faith of the defendant to appear as requested, as opposed to an arrest or bail. The penalty for failing to obey a citation is often a warrant for the arrest of the defendant.

Related terms

Definition of citation



  • Rhymes: -eɪʃǝn


citation (plural citations)

  1. An official summons or notice given to a person to appear; the paper containing such summons or notice.
  2. The act of citing a passage from a book, or from another person, in his own words.
  3. The passage or words quoted; quotation.
  4. Enumeration; mention; as, a citation of facts.
  5. A reference to decided cases, or books of authority, to prove a point in law.
  6. A commendation in recognition of some achievement, or a formal statement of an achievement.


  • (passage of words): quotation
  • (passage of words): quote

Further reading (Legal citation)

Legal citation is the Legal Vinni practice of crediting and referring to authoritative documents and sources. The most common sources of authority cited are court decisions (cases), statutes, regulations, government documents, treaties, and scholarly



Typically, a proper legal citation will inform the reader about a source's authority, how strongly it supports the writer's proposition, its age, and other, relevant information. This is an example citation to a United States Supreme Court court case:

    <u>Griswold v. Connecticut</u>, 381 U.S. 479, 480 (1965).

This citation gives helpful information about the cited authority to the reader.

  • The names of the parties are Griswold and Connecticut. Generally, the name of the plaintiff (or, on appeal, petitioner) appears first, whereas the name of the defendant (or, on appeal, respondent) appears second. Thus, the case is Griswold v. Connecticut.
  • The case is reported in volume 381 of the United States Reports (abbreviated "U.S."). The case begins on page 479 of that volume of the reporter. The authoritative supporting material for the writer's proposition is on page 480. The reference to page 480 is referred to as a "pin cite" or "pinpoint".
  • The Supreme Court decided the case. Because the U.S. Reports only publish cases that the Supreme Court decides, the court deciding the case may be inferred from the reporter.
  • The authority supports the proposition directly because it is not qualified with a signal. If it had offered only indirect or inferential support for the proposition, the author should have preceded the cite with a qualifying signal such as see or cf.
  • The authority is from 1965, so either the clear and enduring wisdom of this source has been venerated by the test of time, or this clearly dated relic of another era is obviously ripe for revision, depending upon the needs of the writer.

Concurring and dissenting opinions are also published alongside the Court's opinion. For example, to cite to the opinion in which Justices Stewart and Black dissent, the citation would appear as the following:

    <u>Griswold v. Connecticut</u>, 381 U.S. 479, 527 (1965) (Stewart & Black, JJ., dissenting).

This citation is very similar to the citation to the Court's opinion. The two key differences are the pin cite, page 527 here, and the addition of the dissenting justices' names in a parenthetical following the date of the case.

Of course, legal citation in general and case citation in particular can become much more complicated.

Citation by country

Some countries have a de facto citation standard that has been adopted by most of the country's institutions.

  • Australia: Australian legal citation usually follows the Australian Guide to Legal Citation (commonly known as AGLC)
  • Canada: Canadian legal citation usually follows the Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation (commonly called the McGill Guide)
  • Germany: German legal citation
  • Netherlands: Dutch legal citation follows the Leidraad voor juridische auteurs [1] (commonly known as Leidraad)
  • United Kingdom: Oxford Standard for Citation Of Legal Authorities is the modern authority on citation of United Kingdom legislation. Guidance for UK government drafters is provided in Statutory Instrument Practice.[1]
  • USA: U. S. legal citation follows
    1. Bluebook standard,
    2. ALWD Citation Manual, or
    3. Tanbook (New York State Official Reports Style Manual).
    4. Maroonbook (University of Chicago Law School).

A number of U.S. states have adopted individual public domain citations standards.[2]


  1. "Statutory Instrument Practice � 4th edition". OPSI website. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office. November 2006. p. 23�24 (s. 2.7) and 25�28 (s. 2.11). Retrieved 2009-10-17.
  2. "Universal Citation.". Retrieved 2008-08-07.

External links


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


1.     scienter
2.     quorum
3.     lex patriae
4.     AORO
5.     lex causae
6.     adjudication order
7.     stare decisis
8.     lex situs
9.     Miranda warning
10.     lex loci celebrationis