The Volokh Conspiracy » Judge Posner Criticizes the Bluebook (the Most Popular Legal Citation Format Manual)

Eugene Volokh • January 25, 2011 5:32 pm

The article is The Bluebook Blues, published in the Yale Law Journal, which is one of the journals that publishes the Bluebook itself. The review is short (a bit over 10 pages of text) and very readable. An excerpt:

Many years ago I wrote a review of The Bluebook, then in its sixteenth edition. My review was naïvely entitled “Goodbye to the Bluebook.” The Bluebook was then a grotesque 255 pages long. It is now in its nineteenth edition — which is 511 pages long.

I made a number of specific criticisms of The Bluebook in that piece, and I will not repeat them. I don’t believe that any of them have been heeded, but I am not certain, because, needless to say, I have not read the nineteenth edition. I have dipped into it, much as one might dip one’s toes in a pail of freezing water. I am put in mind of Mr. Kurtz’s dying words in Heart of Darkness — “The horror! The horror!” — and am tempted to end there.

Irish Law Journal, volume 2

Irish Law Journal logoLate to this, with apologies, I am told that the Irish Law Journal is still (just about) accepting submissions (email here) for its second edition. Submissions should be no more then 25,000 words in length, on any matter of law. According to its submissions page:

The Irish Law Journal strives to publish novel scholarship that will have an immediate and lasting impact on the legal community in Ireland and abroad. We invite articles from academics, professionals and students of law or related disciplines. Case comments and book reviews will also be accepted. While each issue might have articles focused on Irish law, the journal’s remit is international and we welcome submissions on all areas of the law irrespective of national boundaries.

I think that this is an excellent endeavour, adding to the range of journals available in Ireland. They largely fall into two parts: student run for student publication, and more professional or academic for professional or academic publication. The Irish Law Journal crosses this divide: it is student-run and student-edited, but seeking to publish professional and academic pieces. Not only will such a journal publish valuable new legal research, it will also help in the development of law students.

They would prefer submissions in the OSCOLA format (though, that said, if a good piece is submitted in the benighted BlueBook format, I am sure they would consider it). I blogged about the journal when it was first launched, and I understand that volume 1 is now available on HeinOnline, and will soon be available both on Westlaw.IE and LexisNexis; and volume 2 will be as well in due course. So, go ahead, make a submission.

Parenthetically speaking: paragraph numbers in Irish judgments

Paragraph bracketsPaul McMahon on Ex Tempore has an excellent post this morning musing on the use of paragraph numbers in judgments in the Supreme Court. He thinks they’re rather unattractive, but useful. I think his aesthetic objections are misplaced, but I agree with him that they are useful, and I think that the sooner Irish judgments come into line with this best practice elsewhere, the better.

I’m not sure that the absence of paragraph numbers in US judicial opinions is for reasons of sytle. There is much that is ugly about formal US opinion writing, some (much?) of it driven by the Bluebook, some simply a matter of history. The absence of paragraph numbers reflects the assumption that the judgment will be reported very quickly by West in an appropriate volume of their national reporter system, so that the page number will provide the appropriate pin cite.

However, the rise of the paragraph number in judgments outside the US is a function of the rise of medium-neutral reporting and citation. The Austlii/ Bailii/ Canlii (etc) style of citation – [year] court (case no) [para] – makes it easy to pinpoint the relevant citation whatever the medium of publication: html, pdf, or traditional dead-tree law report. In my view, it is elegant both in functional terms and in aesthetic terms. Paragraph numbers allow pinpoint citations (beloved of the Bluebook, but in this case understandably so), which Paul finds useful precisely because they are. Indeed, Canlii have gone further, putting html anchors into the paragraph numbers, to allow html deep linking for pinpoint citation online. However, it is a non-US development of the last 10-15 years, and imperial US practice is not going to retrofit to accommodate it.

Irish practice is inconsistent, and it has long annoyed me that Irish judges have not fully come into line with the rest of the Bailii-etc family. Admittedly, some now use Bailii-style paragraph numbers in their judgments. As Paul points out, Fennelly J’s adoption of a straightforward paragraph numbering style may be as a result of his time at the ECJ – however, two of his Supreme Court colleagues also spent time in Luxembourg but without the same effect. But Fennelly J is very much in the minority in this regard. Many Irish judges continue to use idiosyncratic numbering styles or none at all. Worse, the Irish Reports add paragraph numbers to their official paper reports, and those paragraph numbers are often inconsistent with those provided by the judges in their own judgments. To my mind, this undercuts the entire rationale for paragraph numbering in the first place.

I think it’s time the Chief Justice issued a practice direction requiring all of the judges (including himself) to conform to the paragraph number format for neutral citation. It will make life better for all of us in the long run.

Too many guides, not enough style

New Zealand style guide cover, via the NZ Law Foundation websiteMy previous post on the advent of the Irish Law Journal led to some quite interesting discussion about the nature of citation styles and how crowded the market for legal journals in Ireland is.

By way of supplement, I see that 15 Lambton Quay records the final publication of New Zealand’s uniform style guide. I blogged about it at the proposal stage here. Up until now, Law schools, law firms, publishers and courts have been using their own idiosyncratic and confusing styles when referring to legal material. Now, New Zealand’s six law schools, three main legal publishers, major law reviews, and a number of courts, including the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, have adopted the guide this year. From the 15 Lambton Quay website [with added links]:

The Guide was launched by Justice John McGrath. A uniform guide has been a long time coming! .. The new guide is the result of the combined efforts of many across the profession. Justice Chambers of the Court of Appeal spearheaded the project … The guide was only made possible through generous funding from the New Zealand Law Foundation. …

A web-based version of the guide has been made available on the New Zealand law Foundation’s website. In my earlier post, by reference to the New Zealand rugby team, I proposed, not quite tongue in cheek, that since the dominant US style is the Bluebook, perhaps we should call the New Zealand style guide the All Black Book. This is even more likely now that it has been published with an All Black cover, above left.

As for the the Bluebook, its 19th edition has recently been published, along with the 7th edition of the McGill Guide, and the 16th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style. In my view, there now are far too many style guides world-wide, and some consolidation would be very beneficial.

A new development in Irish legal journal publishing

Irish Law Journal logoIn the US, most law journals are run and edited by law students; every law school publishes its flagship law review; and many publish specialist journals as well. Outside the US, most law journals are run and edited by law faculty, and published by legal publishers. Moreover, outside the US, whilst student-edited journals publishing articles written by students are not uncommon, student-edited journals in the US sense, publishing articles written by academics, have been slow to take hold.

Hence, in Ireland, there are many traditional journals; and the student law reviews include the Cork Online Law Review, the Galway Student Law Review, the Irish Student Law Review, the Trinity College Law Review, and the UCD Law Review. Now, hot on the heels of the publication of the first volume of the Irish Journal of Legal Studies, I learn of the appearance of the Irish Law Journal, edited, run and published by students in the Department of Law at NUI Maynooth.

They aim to constitute a valuable academic resource providing a platform for discussion and debate by publishing novel scholarship that will have an immediate and lasting impact on the legal community in Ireland and abroad. They invite articles from academics, professionals and students of law or related disciplines; and they stress that, while each issue might have articles focused on Irish law, the journal’s remit is international, and submissions are welcome on all areas of the law irrespective of national boundaries.

They say that submissions should conform to the benighted Bluebook style. This is a very great mistake. Whilst almost (but not quite) ubiquitous in the US, it has gained little traction elsewhere, simply because it is ugly and unwieldy. There are many better alternatives, such as the Oxford Standard for Citation Of Legal Authorities (OSCOLA). Indeed, at the Fourth Legal Education Symposium, Larry Donnelly and Rónán Kennedy of NUI Galway talked about the development of an Irish legal style guide as part of the Legal Writing project they are developing with Elaine Fahey (DIT) and Jennifer Schweppe (UL); and the Irish Law Journal might even break new ground by adopting that guide (unless it is too like the Bluebook, in which case my reservations about that apply!).

That caveat aside, this is an excellent venture that deserves to prosper. I look forward to the first volume and to a thriving future.

Canadian style

Canadian flag, via official websiteNo, this isn’t a post about the Canadian blog and magazine Precedent: The new rules of law and style. Instead – following on from my posts about OSCOLA (here), the infamous Bluebook (here), minimalist styles for online journals (here), and an emerging Kiwi style (here) – this is a rather belated comment on a post by Simon Fodden on Slaw:

University of Chicago Manual of Legal Citation Online

The newest version of the University of Chicago Manual of Legal Citation, known as the Maroonbook, is available online in PDF. This brief — 77 page — competitor to the Bluebook is not directly applicable to us here in Canada, of course, but may assist with material filed in the United States. And it serves to remind us that we, too, ought to have available to us a free, online manual.

We’ve mooted this on Slaw a number of times, and, if some irons I’ve got in the fire at the moment get hot in the next few weeks, I’ll have more to say on a possible Slaw project to create such a manual.

Of interest, perhaps, is the fact that the Maroonbook advises us to “[o]mit periods and apostrophes whenever possible.” Slawyer Gary P. Rodrigues addressed the pesky point in The full stop in legal citation – has its time finally come?

There are two interesting nuggets of information here. First, the second edition of legal version of the Chicago Manual of Style is now fully available online. And second, there may soon be a Slaw project to create a similar manual for Canada. Is this a development too far. There are already many many style-sheets out there (some are even Canadian) – do we really need another one? Properly house-styled answers on a post-card please …

Towards an All Black Book?

All Blacks' Silver Fern, via WikipediaBy way of update to my post on Legal Citation, I note that Geoff McLay on 15 Lambton Quay (the Faculty Blog for the Victoria University of Wellington Faculty of Law) writes:

The proposed uniform legal style guide for New Zealand

A group of academics, editors and publishers led by myself and Justice Chambers has been developing a uniform New Zealand legal style guide. We hope that the guide will adopted by all New Zealand publishers, law schools and courts. We have released a consultation version. Any comments would be gratefully received and may be sent to Geoff McLay. The project has been supported by the New Zealand Law Foundation.

Will there be lots of full stops? Given that the dominant US style is the Blue Book, perhaps we should call any New Zealand style guide the All Black Book?

Bonus link: Gary Slapper has an entertaining Summer Quiz in today’s Times.