Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Bluebook and Beyond

Not a Bluebook fan? You’re in distinguished company. As Above the Law reported earlier today, Judge Richard A. Posner of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has just published a humorous “review” of the new 19th edition of The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation. “The Bluebook Blues” is available on the Yale Law Journal website, and appears in the new Winter 2010 issue (which will arrive in print at the library soon).

Posner’s disdain for the Bluebook has been well-documented since at least 1986, when he published an even more scathing critique in the Chicago Law Review, featuring a list of the nineteen most obnoxious “anti-lessons” in writing which Posner believed the Bluebook rules reinforced (#1: overuse of passive voice; #10: “Always be stuffy, boring”). Noting that the Bluebook has more than doubled in page length since his last review, Posner now describes it as a “monstrous growth, remote from the functional need for legal citation forms, that serves obscure needs of the legal culture and its student subculture.”

Posner’s 1986 article served to introduce the legal academy to a competing citation manual, which had been drafted and published by the staff of the University of Chicago Law Review. The “Maroon Book”, according to Posner, was a comparative “breath of fresh air; may it swiftly conquer the world of legal publishing.” Unfortunately (for Posner), the Maroon Book failed to gain traction in the legal writing community, although it’s still used by the law journals at the University of Chicago (which posted a free 20th anniversary edition online last fall).

It looks like Posner has abandoned hope for more widespread Maroon Book adoption over the last 25 years – the appendix to the Yale Law Journal piece reprints a internal style manual for the judge’s clerks, whose introduction assures new hires that Posner “doesn’t follow the Bluebook, the Maroon Book, the Chicago Manual of Style, or any other style book, and doesn’t want you to get hung up worrying about citation form.” But unless you’re definitely headed to the Windy City for summer or post-graduate employment, you’ll probably require some Bluebook brushing-up. Remember that the library has multiple copies on Reserve for your convenience, along with several useful help guides which have been updated to incorporate changes from the 2010 edition:
Also, as the Goodson Blogson previously reported in September, some online sources do attempt to create Bluebook citations automatically, including the “Copy (with Reference)” feature on the popular WestlawNext interface. While these sources don’t create 100% perfect citations (especially for short-form cites), they can be useful for helping a novice user view the general format of a particular cite.

As always, if you need help with navigating the Bluebook or locating sources to improve your legal citation skills, don’t hesitate to Ask a Librarian.