I'm writing a paper for my high school U.S. History class, and I want to refer to certain Supreme Court cases by just one name after my first naming of the case (for example, I want to refer to Rucho v. Common Cause as Rucho or as Common Cause), but I'm not certain about whether the proper name to use is that of the appellant or that of the appellee, or even whether such a standard exists. I've seen it done before in news sources covering Supreme Court cases, so I know it can be done, but I have seen both used at times. I've tried to search for a solution to my problem online, but have found only references on how to cite decisions in full, at the end of a paper. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.

  • This is addressed by the Bluebook, which is a standard manual of legal writing, in Section 10.2. You need a subscription to read it (maybe your librarian can help?) but there's a summary here. Commented Apr 21, 2020 at 19:15
  • I looked on the site you provided. I concluded that the information on which party to name should be contained in Rule 10.9, but the page itself contained no Rule 10.9. Am I missing something? Commented Apr 21, 2020 at 19:31
  • Well, I was referring to Rule 10.2 on abbreviating. But I agree that the page I linked does not explain all the details. It is only a partial summary of the complete rules in the Bluebook, which I unfortunately don't have. Commented Apr 21, 2020 at 19:35
  • Well, thank you for a detailed summary of some of the rules. It's just unfortunate that that page doesn't answer my specific question. Commented Apr 21, 2020 at 19:37

1 Answer 1


How to refer to Supreme Court cases by just one name

In general, subsequent references to a decision can be the first name in the caption of that case.

As an example, you will notice that in the decision Rucho v. Common Cause, 139 S.Ct. 2484 (2019) the court makes an initial reference to Gill v. Whitford (at 2492), and thereafter most of the references to that decision are simply Gill (see, for instance, at 2498, 2501, 2507).

Nate Elredge makes a good point in that there are exceptions. Where the general rule may result ambiguous, another main party in the caption would be mentioned. Using Nate's example of United States v. Nixon, the court's subsequent references to that case in Calley v. Callaway, 382 F.Supp. 650 (1974) is Nixon.

There might be other, harder to find, instances where ambiguity persists. For instance, several unrelated decisions issued by the same court might involve the exact same parties. In those scenarios only the suffix (that is, the numbers following the caption) would distinguish among decisions.

  • 1
    There must surely be some exceptions to that rule. For instance, it would be very confusing to refer to United States v. Nixon as United States. Commented Apr 21, 2020 at 19:19
  • 1
    @NateEldredge Thanks for pointing that out. I supplemented accordingly. I would not be surprised if there are yet additional exceptions, but I think you mentioned the most frequent one. Commented Apr 21, 2020 at 19:41
  • 2
    "For instance, several unrelated decisions issued by the same court might involve the exact same parties." It would be customary in those situations to say after the first instance "(hereinafter "Nixon I")" for example, and refer to them with the name that would otherwise be used and a capitalized Roman numeral indicating temporal sequential order when they are truly the same parties. If there are unrelated different parties with the same surname, who both have cases being referred to, that option isn't available and a different short form citation must be used.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Apr 21, 2020 at 23:49

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .