News and information useful to Cleveland-Marshall College of Law students, faculty and staff.

Archive for the ‘Legal Writing and Citation’


What Does That Abbreviation Mean?

Have you ever read a legal document and had trouble finding what the author’s abbreviation meant? Prince’s Bieber Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations probably has the answer.  Prince’s has thousands of abbreviations—so if you get stuck on the meaning of an abbreviation it should be a top resource to check.  Don’t know what Menz. Stands for? What about Idding? How about Neb. S.R.C.? (Menzie’s Cape of Good Hope Reports, Idding’s Term Reports (Dayton, Ohio), and Nebraska State Railway Commission respectively).

Prince’s Dictionary of Legal Citations assists in citing legal authorities according to the rules given in The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation, 20th ed. (2015). This title is a companion to The Bluebook but not a replacement.  Prince’s has both references to state court rules for citing cases and statutes, and examples of how to cite cases according to those rules.

What is Positive Law and Why Should You Care?

Black’s Law Dictionary defines positive law as “a system of law promulgated and implemented within a particular political community by political superiors, as distinct from moral law or law existing in an ideal community or in some nonpolitical community.”

The term positive law in general parlance connotes statutes, i.e., law that has been enacted by a legislature.  The term “natural law” is distinguished from positive law in that it refers to a set of universal principles and rules that properly govern moral human conduct.

Within the context of the US Code, positive law is used in a more limited way. According to the Office of Law Revision Counsel (US House of Representatives), a positive law title of the US Code is a title that has been enacted as a statute. To enact the title, a positive law codification bill is introduced in Congress. The bill repeals existing laws on a certain subject and restates those laws in a new form–a positive law title of the US Code. The titles of the US Code that have not been enacted through this process are called non-positive law titles. The Office of the Law Revision Counsel is charged with making editorial decisions regarding the selection and arrangement of provisions from statutes into the non-positive law titles of the US Code. Non-positive law titles, as a whole, have not been enacted by Congress, but the laws assembled in the non-positive law titles have been enacted by Congress.  Thus, in both positive law titles and non-positive law titles of the US Code, all of the law set forth is positive law (in the general sense of the term) because the entire US Code is a codification of statutes enacted by Congress, and not of natural law principles.

However, when using the US Code, it is important to understand if the title as a whole has been enacted as positive law.  According to 1 U.S.C. § 204(a), the titles not enacted as positive law as a whole are prima facie evidence of the law.  If there is any conflict with the wording in the US Code and the Statutes at Large, the Statutes at Large govern.

Lexis Advance has the United States Code Service (USCS). Westlaw has the United States Code Annotated (USCA).  While both offer the researcher important information, including notes of decisions, it is important to note the difference vis-à-vis positive law.  USCS unlike USCA follows the text of the public laws as they appear in the Statutes at Large.  Thus, if a title as a whole has not been enacted into positive law, the USCS has the authoritative language.  The editors of the USCS use explanatory notes if they feel there is clarification needed in the language of the public laws.

When does this come into play when doing legal research? Only when there is a discrepancy between the language of the statute as printed in a code and the language of the statute as it appears in Statutes at Large.

Ellipses & Omissions: Bluebooking and Beyond

When you’re quoting a case or other source, sometimes you want to leave out some words. This is called an omission, and the Bluebook rule for it is 5.3.

According to the rule, you should ask yourself whether the beginning, middle, or end of the sentence is being omitted. Below are examples for each. Pay attention to the spaces between the dots, these actually count for something in the Bluebook. Also, note the three dots in the second example, and the four dots in the last example.

Beginning omitted – “[P]oodles generally look great in chunky winter sweaters, and can rock the booties, too.”

Middle omitted – “Standard poodles generally look great in . . . sweaters, and can rock the booties, too.”

End omitted – “Standard poodles generally look great in chunky winter sweaters . . . .”

The use of ellipses and omissions is not just an academic exercise.  Here are some articles on the topic that you may be interested in reviewing (all available on Westlaw):

  • Elizabeth Ruiz Frost, Decoding Hyphens, Dashes and Ellipses, 75-JUL Or. St. B. Bull. 13 (2015).
  • Anthony J. Rella, Ellipses…Anyone? Lish v. Harper’s Magazine, 19 Colum.-VLA J.L. & Arts 85 (Fall 1994/Winter 1995).
  • Nathan M. Crystal, Scrivener: The Mighty Period and Ellipsis, 26-SEP S.C. Law. 48 (2014).
  • Gary Stein, Common Errors to Avoid in Writing Opinions, 257-APR N.J. Law. 49 (2009).
  • Harold Anthony Lloyd, Law’s “Way of Words”: Pragmatics and Textualist Error, 49 Creighton L. Rev. 221 (2016).

TWEN-Based Law Library “Legal Research Seminars”

image of superhero womanTwo Law Library Legal Research Seminars are now available via the Westlaw TWEN platform:

* Scholarly Writing (21:51 minutes; 25 points)

* Research Management with Zotero (9:35 minutes; 8.5 points)

At TWEN, click the “Add Course” button to display the C|M|Law Library Legal Research Seminars course in your “My Courses” list.

Here are key points about the TWEN-based Law Library Legal Research Seminars this Spring 2017 semester:

  • Like our live Seminars, the TWEN-based Seminars are for all C|M|Law students, including MLS/LLM students.
  • The TWEN-based Seminars will be available through Friday, 4/25/17.
  • You earn points for “attending” an electronic Seminar by correctly answering at least 3/4 of the questions on that Seminar‘s quiz.
  • You cannot earn points for “attending” an electronic Seminar if you have already attended a live Seminar on the same topic.  [You cannot earn points for attending the same Seminar twice.]
  • Your Seminar points are good for the entire time you are here at C|M|LAW.
  • When you earn 100 points, you are awarded a Legal Research Seminar Letter of Recognition, and you can earn multiple Letters of Recognition.
  • If you earn a Letter of Recognition within the 2016-17 academic year, you will be entered into a drawing for a $150 Amazon gift card!

FYI, there will be four more live Legal Research Seminars in Law Library Room A059:

  • February 28 – Fastcase Research System  [Fastcase is an alternative legal research system to Bloomberg Law, Lexis Advance & Westlaw.  It’s used by over 500,000 lawyers, and is a Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association membership benefit.  When in the Law Library, C|M|Law students can access Fastcase from the QUICKLINKS on the Law Library home page.]
  • March 21 – Cost-Effective Searching on Lexis Advance & Westlaw
  • March 28 – Ohio Legal Research “Crash Course” for Your Summer Associate Experience
  • April 4 – Getting Ready to Clerk  [Features C|M|Law alumni who will discuss typical research projects done by clerks.]

Questions?  Contact Laura Ray, Outreach & Instructional Services Librarian, 216-687-6880, l.ray@csuohio.edu.

Bluebooking Seminar: Top Takeaways

image of the cover of the bluebookThe most recent Legal Research Seminar, held on February 14th, covered everyone’s favorite topic, Bluebooking. In case you missed it, here are some of the top takeaways:

  1. The Bluepages contain the basic rules you need for citation in non-academic legal documents. The Whitepages contain the more detailed and complex rules needed for citation in academic writing, such as law reviews.
  2. Cite to the official version of the statutory compilation. For the United States Code that would be U.S.C., and not U.S.C.A. or U.S.C.S. However, Ohio has two compilations, both annotated and commercially produced. You may cite to either, but you must include the publisher in the parenthetical. For example, citing Baldwin’s Ohio Revised Code Annotated will look like this: Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 4301.22 (West 2016).
  3. When citing a span of statutory sections, you must use two section symbols (§) like this: 17 U.S.C. §§ 301-305 (2012).
  4. Supra can be used after an authority has been previously fully cited. However, it should not be used for cases, statutes, constitutions, and a few other sources. Rule 4.2 of the Whitepages lists the sources that it may be used for. Using supra in the footnotes of lengthy academic papers is helpful for your readers.
  5. Rule 18 of the Whitepages covers Internet and Other Nonprint Resources, and was significantly updated for the most recent edition of the Bluebook to accommodate the increasing use and variety of e-resources. According to Rule 18.2.1, you may cite some internet sources as if you are citing to the original print source. This means you would not need to include the URL. The digital source must be an authenticated, official, or exact copy of the original print source.
  6. You don’t want to purchase a Bluebook? The Law Library has copies available for you to borrow. You could also try the free citation guide from Cornell LII.

Do you have more Bluebooking questions? Check out the E-bytes Bluebooking Q&A on Tuesday, February 21st between 12pm and 2pm. Drop in any time during the two-hour window and a librarian armed with the latest Bluebook will help answer your questions.