Posted by: Andy Taylor | February 22, 2011

Judge Posner, the Blue Book, and Arkansas Citation Resources

Judge Richard Posner, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, created quite a stir lately with his law review article in the Yale Law Journal, in which he criticized the Blue Book’s citation format.  Though his article criticizes many aspects of the Blue Book (its size, for example), he is particularly critical of its system of abbreviation:

An example that I have picked literally at random is “C.Ag.” What does “C.Ag.” stand for? Why, of course, the Código de Águas of Brazil. Now suppose one had occasion to cite the Código de Águas. Why would one want to abbreviate it? The abbreviation would be meaningless to someone who was not a Brazilian lawyer, and perhaps to Brazilian lawyers as well (but do  they abbreviate  Código de Águas “C.Ag”?).  The basic rule of abbreviating, ignored by the authors of The Bluebook, is to avoid nonobvious abbreviations: don’t make the reader puzzle over an abbreviation, as  The Bluebook does routinely. Consider “Temp. Envtl. L. & Tech. J.,” “ILSA J. Int’l & Comp. L.,” “Emp. Rts. & Emp. Pol’y J.,” and “AIPLA Q.J.” These are names of journals. Now try figuring out “B.T.A.M. (P-H),” “A. Ct. Crim. App.,” “A.F. Ct. Crim. App.,” “C.G. Ct. Crim. App.,” “N-M  Ct. Crim. App.,” “Ne. Reg’l Parole Comm’n,” and “Cent. Ill. Pub. Serv. Co.” What is the point? It’s as if there were a heavy tax  on letters, making it costly to write out Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals instead of abbreviating it “C.G. Ct. Crim. App.”

Judge Posner is so dissatisfied with The Bluebook that he has drafted his own citation manual, which is used by the clerks who assist him in drafting his opinions.  The manual is approximately three pages long (or, in Judge Posner’s words, “one one-hundredth  the length of  The Bluebook”).

While Arkansas appellate attorneys might not want to rely on Judge Posner’s 3-page manual when drafting appellate briefs in Arkansas, there are resources available to Arkansas attorneys (in addition to the Blue Book) that can assist with proper citation in appellate court briefs.  The website of the Arkansas Reporter of Decisions provides several of these resources: 

  • The House Style Guide–One of the most helpful resources provided by the Reporter of Decisions is the House Style Guide, which is the style guide used by the Arkansas appellate court judges and their law clerks when drafting opinions.  The House Style Guide provides information on Arkansas citations as well as punctuation, word usage, possessives, and other grammar and stylistic conventions used by Arkansas’s appellate courts.
  • Citations Guidelines–For a brief overview of citations to opinions of the Arkansas Supreme Court and Arkansas Court of Appeals, the Citations Guidelines page is also helpful.  
  • Citations Page–the Citations Page provides more detailed citation examples, including examples of citations to opinions of appellate courts of all 50 states, along with various rules, law reviews, and other materials.

For more information about how use the new citation format in Arkansas pursuant to Arkansas Supreme Court Rule 5-2(d)(2), check out our previous blog post on the topic, Using Arkansas’s New Citation Format.

If you want even more information about using citations in Arkansas trial court and appellate court briefs, the UALR William H. Bowen School of Law will be hosting a free CLE on Monday, March 7 at 11:30.  The CLE, entitled Citation Insights: The Bluebook, the ALWD Citation Manual, and the Arkansas Supreme Court’s Citation Rules and Practices, will be presented by Professor Coleen Barger.  Attorneys who attend can receive 1 hour of CLE credit.  There is no charge for the CLE, but there is a $5 charge for lunch.  If you plan to attend, please email Haley Walker at

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