Friday, December 15, 2017

When is Subsequent History Required Under Bluebook Rule 10.7?

Legal research and writing students often struggle with when to include subsequent history. The Bluebook is fairly straight forward but its statement of the rule does not seem to “click” for most students until they become more familiar and comfortable with how our courts work and the appellate process. The following post explains when subsequent history must be included in case citations and includes a few (hopefully) helpful examples.

The Bluebook states, “[w]henever a decision is cited in full, give the entire subsequent history of the case, but omit denials of certiorari or denials of similar discretionary appeals, unless the decision is less than two years old or the denial is particularly relevant.” The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation R. 10.7, at 101 (Columbia Law Review Ass’n et al. eds., 19th ed. 2010). You should also “omit any disposition withdrawn by the deciding authority, such as an affirmance followed by reversal on rehearing.” Id.

There are two key questions to ask yourself when a case you are citing has subsequent history. First, is the case less than two years old? Second, has there been (or will there be) any actual litigation concerning the matter in a court following the opinion you are citing?

If the case is less than two years old, you must include all subsequent history, even denials of certiorari or certification.

Example: (Assumes April 5, 2013 as date of writing)

Cert. denied within past two years

Gabriele v. Lyndhurst Residential Cmty., L.L.C., 43 A.3d 1169 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div.), cert. denied, 54 A.3d 810 (N.J. 2012).

Note: According to Bluebook Rule 10.7.1(a), “[i]f a subsequent disposition occurred in the same year as the primary citation, omit the year from the primary citation’s parenthetical.”

If the case is more than two years old, you must ask yourself the second question. I recommend asking yourself whether substantial litigation has occurred or will occur in court following the cited opinion because the answer will eliminate unnecessary subsequent history. If the answer is yes, you must include the subsequent history. If the answer is no, the subsequent history is not required.

Remember that your overarching purpose for citing cases is to provide the reader with the information they will need to understand and verify your claims. Therefore, if certiorari has been denied, no substantive litigation has occurred after the opinion you are citing and there is nothing substantive to refer the reader to. If there has been a decision above (reversal or affirmation), the reader should be notified according to Rule 10.7.1.


Reversed and Remanded

Tesmer v. Granholm, 333 F.3d 683, 686 (6th Cir. 2003) (en banc), rev’d sub nom. Kowalski v. Tesmer, 125 S. Ct. 564 (2004).

Cert. Denied More than Two Years ago

Dep’t of Children & Families, Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. C.H., 5 A.3d 163 (N.J. Super Ct. App. Div. 2008).

Not: Dep’t of Children & Families, Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. C.H., 5 A.3d 163 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2008), cert. denied, 23 A.3d 413 (N.J. 2009).

Disclaimer: The statements and views expressed in this posting are my own and do not reflect those of my law firm. They are intended for general informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion.


Tags: , , , ,


No comments so far.
  • Leave a Reply
    Your gravatar
    Your Name

About Persuasive Authority

Blog dedicated to legal research and writing, law school, and the broader legal world.

Learn more »

If you are interested in contributing content to Persuasive Authority, please send a brief proposal to

Contact Form »
Get in touch


Online contact form »