Case citations indicate where a case may be found in the vast firmament of legal publications. For example, if a reader wants to read the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Mapp v. Ohio, he or she needs the official case citation, which is 367 U.S. 643 (1961). This means that Mapp v. Ohio is found in Volume 367 of the United States Reports, starting on, and it was decided in 1961.
If a reader wants to read the California Supreme Court decision in the case of Peterson V. City of Long Beach, he or she needs the citation, which is 155 Cal Rptr 360 (1979). The reader can then go to volume 155 of the California Reporter and start reading the case on. The case was decided in 1979. The citation does not indicate the number of pages the case covers, only the page where the case starts. Court cases may be published by official government sources or by private publishers. The better practice is to use the official government source for citation purposes, although private publications’ citations may also be used when the official government source is unavailable or if there is no official government publication.
For example, Mapp v. Ohio is also found in 81 S.Ct. 1684 (the Supreme Court Reporter is not a government publication) and 6 L.Ed.2d 1081 (the Lawyers’ Edition is not a government publication). However, the better practice is to use 367 U.S. 643 (1961) because it is the official case citation.