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How to Cite to Pennsylvania Legal Sources

These are sample citations to legal sources in Pennsylvania according to the Bluebook. Pennsylvania courts choose different citation formats for some sources, and I have included them below in red:


  • Pennsylvania Constitution

Pa. Const. art. IX, § 2


  • Pennsylvania Supreme Court

Commonwealth v. Williams, 832 A.2d 962 (Pa. 2003)

  • Pennsylvania Superior Court

Commonwealth v. Basinger, 982 A.2d 121 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2009)

Commonwealth v. Basinger, 982 A.2d 121 (Pa. Super. 2009)

  • Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court

Wilson v. Marrow, 917 A.2d 357 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2007)

Wilson v. Marrow, 917 A.2d 357 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2007)


  • Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes

1 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 102 (<year>)

1 Pa.C.S. § 102

Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes is the official codification and has 79 titles. Commonly cited titles include: Title 18 (Crimes Code), Title 20 (Probate, Estates and Fiduciaries Code), and Title 23 (Domestic Relations Code).

Citing to this official compilation is preferred over citing to Purdon’s Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Annotated (Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. or Pa.C.S.A.), which is West’s annotated version.


  • Pennsylvania Code

1 Pa. Code § 1.2 (<year>)

1 Pa. Code § 1.2


  • Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure

Pa. R. Civ. P. 51

Pa.R.C.P. 51

  • Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure

Pa. R. Crim. P. 102

Pa.R.Crim.P. 102

  • Pennsylvania Rules of Appellate Procedure

Pa. R. App. P. 101

Pa.R.A.P. 101

*Important note regarding Pennsylvania statutes and regulations:

Unlike many states, Pennsylvania’s statutes are not in a “Code.” The Pennsylvania Code contains regulations, not statutes. This is a point of confusion for many (lawyers and non-lawyers alike), particularly those out of state.

Direct Citations to Internet Sources: How to Cite to Blogs

Courts are citing to blogs in their opinions with greater frequency. By the end of 2010, nearly 300 state and federal judicial opinions contained citations to blogs. In my previous post, Parallel Citations to Internet Sources, I explained citation to sources on the Internet that are also found in traditional media.  This post addresses citation to sources found exclusively on the Internet, specifically–blogs.

Debating whether blogs are becoming or have already become authorities is an exercise in futility. Law students, law professors, lawyers, and others will continue to blog. Judges and their clerks will continue to read and be influenced by blog posts, and blogs will be cited in judicial opinions.*

Numerous style manuals have been published, but because my focus is legal citation in court documents, I will address citation to blogs according to the 19th edition of The Bluebook. Here are two examples of direct citations to Internet sources according to Bluebook Rule 18.2.2 followed by a breakdown of their parts:

Citation to a blog post:

Douglas A. Berman, Another Puzzling Report on Federal Child Porn Sentence, Sent’g L. & Pol’y, Oct. 7, 2008, http://sentencing.typepad.com/sentencing_law_and_policy/2008/10/another-puzzlin.html.

Citation to a blog comment:

Daniel, Comment to Another Puzzling Report on Federal Child Porn Sentence, Sent’g L. & Pol’y, Oct. 7, 2008, http://sentencing.typepad.com/sentencing_law_and_policy/2008/10/another-puzzlin.html.

1.  Author

Type the author’s name. But if you are citing to a comment to a blog post, list the commenter’s username.

Douglas A. Berman


2. Blog Post Title

Italicize the blog post title.  When citing to a comment, include “Comment to” in normal typeface before the blog post title.  Bluebook Rule 18.2.2 (b) states, “All efforts should be made to include a title that sufficiently identifies the page but that is not unwieldy, long, uninformative, or confusing.”

Another Puzzling Report on Federal Child Porn Sentence

Comment to Another Puzzling Report on Federal Child Porn Sentence

3.  Blog Title

Type the blog title while keeping capitalization as it appears on the blog. Bluebook Rule 18.2.2 (b)(i) also states that blog titles should be abbreviated according to its table of periodical abbreviations (T13).

[I disagree with The Bluebook‘s position on abbreviating blog titles. I believe that they should be typed precisely as authors have them on their blogs.]

Sent’g L. & Pol’y (All four words in the title are found in T13 and abbreviated accordingly.)

vodzaklegal (Blog does not capitalize the first letter of the title.)

4.  Date and Time

Using the appropriate abbreviation for the month (see Bluebook Table T12), provide the date of the specific blog post. Or, if you are citing to a comment, list the date of the comment instead.

Oct. 7, 2008

5. URL

Provide the URL to the specific page on which the blog post can be found. (See Bluebook Rule 18.2.2 (d) for more information.)


The 19th edition of The Bluebook includes several changes regarding citation to Internet sources, but more improvements can be made. Consult the citation manual for more details about specific citation issues that you may encounter.

*For further reading, see Lee F. Peoples’ 2010 article, The Citation of Blogs in Judicial Opinions, which was published in the Tulane Journal of Technology & Intellectual Property.

The Use of Pinpoint Citations in Legal Writing

A pinpoint citation, also known as a pincite, directs readers to the specific portion (page or footnote, for example) of a source that supports a stated proposition.

For a source in which the first page is identified in the citation (such as a case or law review article), the pinpoint citation is located immediately after and separated by a comma and one space:

  • Case. Century Indemnity Company v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s, 584 F.3d 513, 528 (3d Cir. 2009).
  • Law Review Article. Jeffrey P. Bauman, Standards of Review and Scopes of Review in Pennsylvania — Primer and Proposal, 39 Duq. L. Rev. 513, 516 (2001).

But for a source such as a statute or book, the pinpoint citation is found directly after the title:

  • Statute. 71 Pa.C.S. § 5302 (2010).
  • Book. Black’s Law Dictionary 478 (9th. ed. 2009).

Certainly, a pinpoint citation is not necessary if a lawyer is referring to a source in its entirety.

I’m the type of lawyer that will check all citations in others’ documents to verify that they indeed accurately support their propositions; and when pinpoint citations are absent, this can be grueling work.  Whether lawyers exclude pinpoint citations because of carelessness, hardship, or even a deliberate attempt to frustrate their opponents, they must realize that they are negatively affecting their target audience: the court.

*The use of pinpoint citations, particularly in scholarly legal publications, does have its critics.  A post spawning no less than 40 comments on the blog, Concurring Opinions, illustrates the continuing debate.

Citation Placement: Footnotes or Text?

I recently had the opportunity to read Joseph Kimble’s Michigan Bar Journal article “Where Should the Citations Go?” that was brought to my attention by the (new) legal writer’s April 4th blog post.  Kimble’s article focused on basic legal citations in court documents.

He identified two issues: First, should lawyers place these citations in the text or in footnotes? Second, should individual judges even be making rules about this?

Kimble explained that in Mosholder v. Barnhardt, a federal judge in the Eastern District of Michigan made such an order.  This is the judge’s footnote in its entirety with the portion Kimble called a “stunner” in blue:

Neither party adhered adequately to this court’s motion practice guidelines, as set forth in the court’s June 18, 2009 “Scheduling Order,” and submitted briefs in formats which are contrary to the preferred format in this district and by this judge. The parties simply ignored this court’s instructions with respect to Rule 56 motions. Neither party provided numbered, corresponding statements of purportedly uncontroverted facts. Defendant’s first stated fact is “Plaintiff works a [sic] Corrections Officer E-9 in the Thumb Correctional Facility (TCF). (Exhibit A, Plaintiff’s Deposition, p 20 ln 5-19).”

Plaintiff’s first stated fact is “Plaintiff was hired by the MDOC in February 1995 and was initially posted at the Western Wayne Correctional Facility. See Exhibit 1, pg. 10.” The result of the parties’ failure to coordinate is a jumble of alleged facts coming from two directions many of which are either uncontested or irrelevant to the decision. Plaintiff’s brief contains margins much smaller than the size mandated by Local Rule 5.1, making the brief more difficult to read. Defendants, for their part, followed what appears to be an Attorney General’s office trend, citing every authority in a footnote. This practice is distracting to a reader and unacceptable to this judge. The Attorney General is notified that future filings in this judge’s cases that confine case and statutory citations to footnotes will be stricken subject to refiling. Assistant Attorneys General Grill and Cabadas are directed to notify their supervisor(s) in writing of this point of procedure. The court, on the other hand, commends both the Attorney General and Plaintiffs for clarity in docketing of supporting exhibits (e.g., “Exhibit A — Deposition of Ruth Mosholder 10 pages; Exhibit B — Deposition of Laquita Featherstone 6 pages,” etc.), a format that is also called for in CM/ECF guidelines, but too seldom followed.

Kimble advocates placing all citations in footnotes.  He acknowledged that judges can rule about margins, page limits and type size, but suggested their lack of expertise makes them unqualified to address issues of formatting, style or “readability.”  While conceding that lawyers should write for their audience, Kimble asks if the audience should not be more open-minded.

What you consider readable may not be readable to me.  In court documents, I want to see immediate references to the legal authority on which opposing counsels’ propositions are based.  I can also strategically use textual citations when I write.  In my opinion, these aspects outweigh any style concerns.

I am not in favor of parallel citations (generally), string citations and other unnecessary information being included in the text of court documents.  I believe that striving toward short, useful and effective textual citations is a better strategy than relegating all citations to footnotes.

Readability is in the eye of the beholder.  If readability is dependent on citation placement, then the target audience (court) is qualified to determine the proper placement of citations and make orders accordingly.  When you write: Know the applicable rules, your purpose and audience.

Parallel Citations to Internet Sources

I cannot be alone in believing that parallel citations to multiple book sources are a nuisance.  I rarely ever step foot into a law library to consult a traditional printed source.

As an instructor, I cringe when I read a student’s paper listing parallel citations, particularly when it is obvious that they have no clue about what they are typing.  They mistakenly believe that the parallel citations are always required or make their writing look more “lawyer-like.”

Citation is critically important in legal writing.  But if you do not know or understand what you are typing in terms of parallel citations, please do not include them.*  They will cause unnecessary grief to your readers who most likely will not need or understand them either.

Parallel citations to Internet sources are another matter.  Bluebook Rule 18.2.3 states, “Even when a source is available in a traditional printed medium, a parallel citation to an Internet source with identical content may be provided if it will substantially improve access to the source cited.”

It indicates that “the parallel Internet citation should then be introduced with the explanatory phrase, ‘available at.’”  Note that “available at” should be italicized.

So, what does this look like for a case?

Am. Mining Cong. v. U.S. Army Corps of Eng’rs, No. CIV.A 93-1754 SSH (D.D.C. Jan. 23, 1997), available at http://www.wetlands.com/fed/tulloch1.htm.

…for a law review article?

Marcel Kahan & Edward B. Rock, Corporate Constitutionalism: Antitakeover Charter Provisions as Pre-Commitment, 152 U. Pa. L. Rev. (forthcoming Dec. 2003), available at http://ssrn.com/abstract=416605.

Splendidly simple!  Parallel citations to Internet sources are also extremely helpful to someone like me who reads almost exclusively on the computer.  I teach this to students and encourage all to try it out.

Finally, I am (painfully!) aware that many of my colleagues think it is “cool” to trash The Bluebook.  I will not be jumping on that bandwagon any time soon!  I hope to address this controversy in a future post.

*Of course, some courts may require parallel citations.  If this is the case, take the time to understand what you are typing.