A citation is the location of a case or statute. The basic format for a legal citation includes the volume number, abbreviated title of the book or source, and the page or section numbers. Citations may also have a popular name, such as "Moore/Marsden".

In California family law cases, there is a petitioner and respondent, which is unlike other civil cases where you have plaintiff and defendant. For example, a noted California Family Law Case heard by the California Supreme court is In re Marriage of Norviel; Vernon A. Norviel (Husband) was the petitioner in the dissolution matter and was the respondent in the appeal. Carmencita J. Norviel (Wife), was the respondent in the dissolution matter and was the appealant (she appealed the Superior Court's decision). The official citation for this decision is: 102 Cal. App. 4th 1152 which means 102 is the volume number of the California Appellate Reporter 4th means the fourth series of that reporter and 1152 is the page number.

There are different publishers for Supreme Court Opinions, for example: California Appellate Reporter; California Rptorter, California Daily Opinion Service and Daily Journal DAR. So, a case may have several different citations. Each cite has the same information, it is just in a different book. These are known as parallel citations.

Locating opinions in reports can be located using different methods. Court opinions located in reports are not arranged by topic, and there is no index. Often you can find a reference in texts or footnotes of texts, encyclopedias, or in other cases. If you use an annotated code, cases may be listed that have cited a statute.

Lawyers and law schools use subscription computer databases. Subscription databases are expensive and are not often available to the public. However, on the California Superior Court’s website, you can search for cases using a one of thees databases; a limited version of Lexis, which permits citation or keyword searching.

Digests are the traditional means of finding cases. West Publishing Co. publishes digests, including California Digest (Cal. Dig.) and Pacific Digest (Pac. Dig.). Digests have a one-sentence summary of cases and places those summaries under topics, such as child support.


Legal Research Citation Examples
Abbreviation Term Description Example
§ or §§ Section or Sections Used to cite a code or constitution Cal. Civ. Code § 4100 (section 4100 of the California Civil Code)
Cal. Jur. 3d California Jurisprudence 3d series (current edition) California's Legal Encyclopedia 13 Cal.Jur.3d (1989) Constitutional Law, § 91, p. 168.
Cal. App., Cal. App. 2d, Cal. App. 3d, Cal. App. 4th California Appellate Reports (1st, 2nd, 3d and 4th series) Courts of Appeal decisions In re Danielle W. (1989) 207 Cal.App.3d 1227
Cal. Const. California Constitution Cite provided is Article V, Section 13 Cal. Const., art. V, § 13
Cal., Cal. 2d, Cal. 3d, Cal. 4th California Reports (1st, 2nd, 3d and 4th series) California Supreme Court decisions Senate of the State of Cal. v. Jones (1999) 21 Cal.4th 1142
Cal. Rptr., Cal. Rptr. 2d California Reporter Covers California Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal Bidrim v. Mitchell (1979) 155 Cal.Rptr. 29