Paul L. Caron

Thursday, June 13, 2024

An Old-Fashioned Bluebook Burning

Paul A. Gowder (Northwestern; Google Scholar), An Old-Fashioned Bluebook Burning, 1 Nw. L.J. des Refusés __ (2024):

Bluebook 2020

As the faculty advisor for the newly-minted Journal des Refusés, the duty has fallen to me to identify the most eminently refusal-worthy aspect of the enterprise of legal publishing. I speak, of course, of The Bluebook: bane of generations of authors and journal editors, the source of painfully detailed rules about every aspect of legal citation, complete with signals, thousands of abbreviations, cross-references that send readers merrily scurrying across hundreds of pages of law review articles to find a source, and typography rules seen in no other citation style.  ...

This essay argues for an end to law's infamously Byzantine and bloated citation manual. ... The very features that make the Bluebook distinctive when compared to citation systems in other academic fields are also those that inflict vast amounts of unnecessary if not downright harmful labor on its users.

The root of the problem is its obsolescence: the Bluebook was designed for a system in which legal scholarship was primarily consumed in print and for material where the doctrinal epistemology of authority predominated.

Today, legal scholarship is primarily consumed electronically, and it largely shares an epistemology of credence with other scholarly disciplines. (Nor are its hundreds of pages of rules particularly useful for practicing lawyers and judges, who sensibly disregard most of it anyway.)

At a minimum, the signals, typographical rules, abbreviations, and cross-references need to be put out of their misery; when those are gone what is left would be practically indistinguishable from the sensible citation systems of other fields, as it should be. Also, we should automate as much as possible---and that turns out to be quite a lot.

Bluebook Graph

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