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Bluebook Citation: Prior & Subsequent Case History

Bluebook Quick Reference

B10.1.6 (p. 15):  Bluepages reference for prior and subsequent history.

Rule 10.7 (p. 109):  Rules for prior and subsequent history.

Rule 10.7.1 (p. 109):  Explanatory phrases and weight of authority rules.

T8 (p. 500):  Table of explanatory phrases.

Prior & Subsequent History Checklist

Handy reference for determining when and how to include prior and subsequent history to your citation:

Subsequent History

Do NOT include subsequent history if:

  • Denial of certiorari on a case more than two years old
  • The case history is on remand or denial of rehearing
  • The case was withdrawn by the deciding court.

Otherwise, ALWAYS include subsequent history in your full case citation.

Place the subsequent history after the primary citation, with a comma separating them.

Make sure to include an explanatory phrase, found in T8.  Verify if a comma is needed after the appropriate explanatory phrase.

If the case has a prior history, place the prior history before the subsequent history in the case citation.

End the full citation with a period.

Prior History

DO NOT include prior history unless:

  • the earlier case is significant to the point of the case you are citing
  • the earlier case better describes the issues of the case you are citing.

If you do need to include prior history, place it after the primary citation with a comma separating the two.

Make sure to include an explanatory phrase, found in T8.  Verify if a comma is needed after the appropriate explanatory phrase.

If the citation also includes a subsequent history, place the prior history before the subsequent history in the citation.

End the full citation with a period.

The Basics

It is important that what you are citing is considered "good law", as many cases will go through multiple appeals over it's lifetime.  Prior and subsequent history citations allow you to cite a particular opinion while giving reference to all opinions for the case.

Subsequent history refers to opinions issued by the court that review the case after the opinion you are citing.  The Bluebook  requires subsequent history be included in the citation if the case was addressed by a higher court or if the case is cited in full.  To cite the subsequent history of a case:

  • Subsequent history citations will follow the full citation of a case, separated by a comma.
  • Subsequent history will by introduced by an explanatory phrase, which can be found in T8 of your bluebook.  Cornell Law also provides a table of abbreviations for words used in providing case histories.  NOTE:  some explanatory phrases require commas and some do not, so be sure to verify!

However, there are some occasions when you do not cite subsequent history.  These exceptions are:

  • The history is a denial of certiorari of a case that is more than two years old.
  • The case was remanded by a lower court.
  • The disposition was withdrawn by the original deciding authority.

In these cases, you do not need to include the subsequent history in your citation.  

Prior history includes opinions issued by the court before the opinion in which you wish to cite.  The general rule for prior history is that you do not include it in your citations.  However, there are some exceptions:

  • The history is "significant to the point for which the case is cited."
  • The opinion you are citing does not adequately describe the issue(s) in the case.

These exceptions say you do include the prior history in the case citation.  To cite the prior history of a case:

  • Place the prior history after the full citation, with a comma separating the two.
  • If you have both a prior and subsequent history to inlcude, list the prior history first after the full citation.

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