Referencing Cases Law Essay

Why do you need to cite?  

When submitting a piece of academic work, you need to properly acknowledge the material that you have consulted. This allows others who read your work to verify facts or research the same information more easily. Acknowledgment may be in the form of footnotes and/or a bibliography.

You must reference your sources whenever you quote, paraphrase, or use someone else's ideas or words.

To find out more about why citing and referencing appropriately is crucial, and how you can avoid unintentional plagiarism, take a look at:

The Law Faculty views plagiarism and undisclosed collusion seriously, partly on academic grounds and partly because of the possible impact of academic misdemeanors on legal practice. You may like to look up recent cases in Victoria (Re OG: a Lawyer) and in other States.

  • Read the journal article, Matthew Groves, 'Your Cheating Art Will Tell On You', (2009) 89(8) Law Institute Journal 43.

Student essay: in-text citation v. footnote citation

In-Text Citation v. Footnotes in Legal Writing

In-Text Citation Bad
The legal writing community should stop using in-text references. Bruce v. Establishment, 301 U.S. 397, 401, 57 S. Ct. 797, 799, 81 L. Ed. 2d 1182 (1977). Footnote form should be used instead. But see The State of Legal Writing v. Bruce,196 U.S. 319, 324-325, 25 S. Ct. 264, 265-266, 49 L. Ed. 2d 494 (1905). Footnotes should be used in legal citation because they make reading easier. Bruce v. Hard Reading, 322 U.S. 497, 451, 59 S. Ct. 987, 9899, 71 L. Ed. 2d 1452 (1977). And making it easier to read legal writing should be a goal of the legal writing community. See e.g., Schiess v. Establishment, 134 U.S. 160, 171, 10 S. Ct. 384, 387, 33 L. Ed. 2d 835 (2005).

In Schiess v. Establishment, Schiess argues that legal writing should be clear, concise, simple, organized, accurate, and correct. Id.; see also Bruce v. People Against Schiess, 301 U.S. 397, 401, 57 S. Ct. 797, 799, 81 L. Ed. 2d 1182 (1977). One way for lawyers to accomplish these goals, says Schiess, is to improve legal document design. Schiess, 134 U.S. at 174 (stating that document-design principles can improve “the neatness, readability, and accessibility of their documents”); see also In re Props to Schiess, 196 U.S. 319, 324-325, 25 S. Ct. 264, 265-266, 49 L. Ed. 2d 494 (1985) (arguing that props be given to Schiess). Schiess makes new and interesting suggestions to improve document design. See generally id. He lists eight categories of modern document-design principles that can improve the “neatness, readability, and accessibility” of legal documents. Schiess, 134 U.S. at 166 (“fonts, typefaces, justification, characters per line, line spacing, tabs, headings, and numbering”).

But Schiess doesn't address one strikingly un-neat, un-readable, and un-accessible design quality of many legal documents: in-text reference citation. See, e.g., Bruce v. Every Memo Ever, 322 U.S. 497, 451, 59 S. Ct. 987, 9899, 71 L. Ed. 2d 1452 (1977); and Bruce v. Every Opinion Ever, 322 U.S. 497, 451, 59 S. Ct. 987, 989, 71 L. Ed. 2d 1452 (1976). Sometimes these citations muddle legal writing to the point of absurdity. See, e.g., Bruce v. String-Cites, 322 U.S. 497, 451, 59 S. Ct. 987, 9899, 71 L. Ed. 2d 1452 (1977); String-Cites v. Bruce, 431 U.S. 547, 549, 62 S. Ct. 457, 8204, 64 L. Ed. 2d 1643 (1979); and Bruce Getting Angry v. String-Cites, 322 U.S. 497, 451, 59 S. Ct. 987, 9899, 71 L. Ed. 2d 1152 (1977). In-text reference citations should stop.

Footnotes Good
Footnotes should replace in-text reference citations. Footnotes make documents easier to read.1 Also, footnotes do not change the readers' ability to have immediate access to authority.2 This is because using footnotes does not change the all-important complications of legal citation; using footnotes merely changes document design.3 Readers can pay attention to the content of the writing, and choose to “check” for authority only when necessary.4 Sure, a reader may have to veer an eye waayy down to the bottom of the page now and again.5 But this is far less intrusive than the inter-sentence barrage of italics, numbers, acronyms, and parentheticals caused by in-text legal citation.6 Footnotes good.

In conclusion, footnotes should replace in-text references in legal documents. Footnotes are a superior method of citation in terms of document design. Neatness, readability, and accessibility would all be improved by a move toward footnotes. The benefit to legal writing would be as great as other changes to design conventions like line spacing, typefaces, etc.

It may be that current conventions about proper footnote usage argue against this proposal. But legal writing is familiar with using discipline-specific citation methods. So why not use the same citation methods at the bottom of the page instead of all over it?
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1. See, e.g., This Paragraph v. The Previous Paragraphs, 322 U.S. 497, 451, 59 S. Ct. 987, 9899, 71 L. Ed. 2d 1452 (1977).
2. Look Down Here v. Look Between Sentences, 196 U.S. 319, 324-325, 25 S. Ct. 264, 265-266, 49 L. Ed. 2d 494 (1905).
3. Win v. Win Situation, 431 U.S. 547, 549, 62 S. Ct. 457, 8204, 64 L. Ed. 2d 5643 (1979).
4. The First Amendment Protects Speech v. Carrots Are Yellow as A Matter of Law, 134 U.S. 160, 171, 10 S. Ct. 384, 387, 33 L. Ed. 2d 835 (2005) (arguing that the First Amendment proposition may require citation but most readers shouldn't be bothered with a post-sentence study of the cited authority, while, on the other hand, the carrot proposition may require some follow-up).
5. In re Come on Down, 134 U.S. 160, 171, 10 S. Ct. 384, 387, 33 L. Ed. 2d 835 (2005).
6. In re Isn't it Ridiculous, 431 U.S. 547, 549, 62 S. Ct. 457, 8204, 64 L. Ed. 2d 5643 (1979) (arguing that it is ridiculous).
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