Legal Citation Help: Parallel Citations
Whether you are a law student, an associate, or have been a practicing attorney for years, parallel citations in legal writing can be a mystery. We’re here to help you unravel what a parallel citation is, and when to use one!
Legal Citation Help: Parallel Citations
What are parallel citations?
The first question is: what is a parallel citation? A parallel citation is when reported cases are found in one of several reporters with a volume and page number.[i] For example: 213 [volume] Mich App [reporter] 389 [first page], 401 [page cited]. Some cases appear in multiple reporters, which provides more than one possible citation for that case, otherwise known as a parallel citation.
For example (note that the Michigan Appellate Opinion Manual[ii] requires no periods in citations):
Phillips v Deihm, 213 Mich App 389, 401 (1995).
Phillips v Deihm, 541 NW2d 566 (1995).
Phillips v Deihm, 213 Mich App 389, 401; 541 NW2d 566 (1995).
When should parallel citations be used?
When a case is cited in two reporters, how and when should a parallel citation be used? The answer might depend on if you are writing something to be submitted to a court, or writing for a law professor.
There are many sources of information concerning legal citations, however there is no national standard.[iii] Therefore, the proper rule is determined by law professionals and the courts. This means that any rule or standard could be drastically different if the court requires otherwise.
Parallel Citations Guidelines
For practicing attorneys and associates working at firms in Michigan, for example, the Michigan Appellate Opinion Manual[iv] (“Manual”) is the primary source of information for legal citations to reported cases in Michigan. Your state likely has its own manual or resource. The Manual requires the use of parallel citations for state cases (if a parallel citation is available) and for Supreme Court cases (Manual Rule 1:9.1–.2). The individual citation rules for each state is available in Appendix 6 of the Manual.
Therefore, a citation to a Michigan court case should include a citation to the official reporter (“US” or “Mich App” “Mich”) and to the National Reporter System Regional Reports (“S Ct” “L Ed” or “NW2d” “NW”).
Using the above example, the proper citation is: Phillips v Deihm, 213 Mich App 389, 401; 541 NW2d 566 (1995).
The reporters in a Supreme Court case should be in this order: US, S Ct, L Ed (Manual Rule 1:9.2). An example of a proper Supreme Court citation using the Manual is: Brown v Bd of Ed of Topeka, Shawnee Cty, Kan, 347 US 483, 489–90; 74 S Ct 686, 689; 98 L Ed 873 (1954).
However, there is one exception to using parallel citations: when a case is cited anywhere in an order, including a published order from the Michigan Supreme Court or Michigan Court of Appeals. Then, the Manual suggests citing only the official reporter (Manual Rule 1:9.1).
Additionally, if a case does not have a parallel citation, then none is needed (Manual Rule 1:9.3). For example: Swift v Applebone, 23 Mich 252 (1871). Or, when one of the citations to the reporter is not yet available, there should be blanks for the volume and page number of that reporter in the citation (Manual Rule 1:12).
The Bluebook, which is the citation guide used by many law students,[v] has a completely different rule. Citations according to the Michigan Appellate Opinion Manual can be supplemented by the Bluebook,[vi] but the Manual takes priority for practitioners.
Bluepages Rule 10 recommends citing to only one reporter. In choosing which reporter to cite to, the Bluebook’s Table 1.3 states, for Michigan Supreme Court and Michigan Court of Appeals cases, to cite to the North Western regional reporter (“N.W.” or “N.W.2d”) if the case is reported in one of those two. Otherwise, cite to the other reporter (“Mich.” or “Mich. App.”).
The ALWD Guide to Legal Citation[vii] also is a popular citation manual for law students.
Isabella Shaya is in her third year at Wayne State University Law School and is the managing editor of the Wayne Law Review. Isabella is a JD Advising blogger and editor.