What does "Dispense with formal citation" mean?

In various moot scenarios, I have observed the use of the phrase:

If it pleases the court, may we dispense with formal citation?

when referring to a different case.

I was wondering what exactly this means - I would assume something along the lines of "may I quote this case", but I observed this being said after a chief justice was quoted.

What does it mean? What formal citations are being dispensed?

2 Answers 2


Normally, when you refer to a court case in a real court, you would state not just the name of the case but also the remainder of the citation for the case, e.g., Brown v. Jones, 485 P.3d 875 (Colo. 1995). This is necessary, because there may be many cases out of the many thousands or millions of reported cases with parties with the same surnames or business names, especially in criminal cases (where one party is always "The People"), and in litigation against government entities or other repeat litigants (e.g., mortgage companies and credit card companies).

But, since it isn't a real court and the moot court process often works from a pre-established list of precedents that can be fully distinguished from each other by the party names without the rest of the citation, moot court allows the parties to dispense with this fussy detail that isn't necessary in this pretend court environment if a participant lawyer requests that this be done. Once permission to do this is secured, a case can be referred to as, for example, Brown v. Jones without the balance of the full legal citation.


What does it mean?

"If it pleases the court, may we proceed without formal citation?"

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  • 1
    There's an apocryphal story about a pharmacy that had a sign: "We Dispense With Accuracy". Commented Sep 24, 2020 at 4:01
  • What is the "formal citation" that they're dispensing with, though?
    – Ryan M
    Commented Sep 24, 2020 at 4:24
  • @RyanM Whatever it is, it would not affect the meaning of "dispense with" it.
    – Greendrake
    Commented Sep 24, 2020 at 4:42
  • @Greendrake I actually was wondering the same as Ryan M. I've now edited the question to reflect this. What exactly is the formal citation being dispensed (with examples)?
    – global05
    Commented Sep 24, 2020 at 5:03
  • @global05 That's impossible to tell without seeing the context. There must be a specific citation from a different case being referred to, so whoever uses the phrase in question is asking permission to proceed without citing it.
    – Greendrake
    Commented Sep 24, 2020 at 5:10

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