Wednesday, June 2, 2010

New Bluebook: Made When Beef Was Cheap (and Controversial?)

My grandfather, who came from a rural area, had a phrase meaning "very large," which applies to the new Bluebook: It was made when beef was cheap.  The nineteenth edition, new this week, is almost a hundred pages longer than the eighteenth edition.  And, apart from the length, it may raise a few eyebrows. 

Comparing the old and new editions, reference material accounts for eighty percent of the new pages—tables covering various jurisdictions (statutes used in a certain state, case reporters for that state, etc.)* or lists of local rules and style guides.**  Additions to these almost encyclopedic entries may actually lighten the load, facilitating discovery of sources and compliance with local rules.  Routine enough.  So, what about potential controversy?

Sixty of these new pages, or put another way, the majority of the new Bluebook pages, amend the foreign jurisdiction reference tables (Argentina to Zambia).***  Citation to foreign law is, of course, a hot-button issue with distinguished advocates on both sides, which was raised in the Sotomayor confirmation hearings and is sure to come up in the Kagan hearings.  Is the new Bluebook enabling inappropriate citation or simply amending secondary source information?

In either case, the new Bluebook has bulked up.  Along with the reference material mentioned, some new items to look for include how to cite PACER/ECF documents (pp. 21 and 106) and a summary chart on internet and other electronic sources (pp. 164-65).  Also, though not a widely followed rule, citations to court documents need not be in parentheses anymore (p. 20, making optional).
*T1 and T2, printed on white paper with blue border.
**BT2, printed on light blue paper.