Adventures in Bluebooking

The other day I was working on a citation exercise for my students. The exercise was about citing statutes, and I wanted to show the students how to find the correct date to include in the citation. Here is what the Bluebook says:

12.3.2. Year of Code

When citing a bound volume of the current official or unofficial code, provide parenthetically the year that appears on the spine of the volume, the year that appears on the title page, or the latest copyright year–in that order of preference.

This is insane. Bound volume? Spine? Are the people who write the Bluebook not aware of the existence of computers?

The last time I looked at a statute in an actual book was in my first year of law school, which was seventeen years ago. Not only is everything available online now–as it has been for at least seventeen years–but when it comes to statutes, I can almost always find them for free. There is simply no reason, or at least no reason I’m aware of, to drive (or ride your horse? do the Bluebook people know about cars?) to the nearest law library to look at a statute in a “bound volume” with a “spine.”

So the question becomes, how do you find the date of a statute you’re looking at online? Answer: You don’t. It’s impossible, which is why nobody does it.

Just to make sure of this, I called Westlaw this afternoon and asked the reference attorney how to find the date of the most recent code publication for a statute I’m looking at on Westlaw. He said there is no way. That information simply is not available on Westlaw.

When I was researching an article I wrote on legal citation, I picked at random twenty federal court briefs that cited the federal jurisdiction statute. Guess how many of them included a year in the citation? ZERO. I rest my case.