Massachusetts legal writing and citations

A collection of web and print resources on reading and writing legal citations.

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Table of Contents

Writing legal citations

Supreme Judicial Court style manual, SJC Office of the Reporter of Decisions, 2022-2023.
"The manual may be useful to those preparing appellate briefs."

The University of Chicago manual of legal citation (the Maroonbook), 2022 edition.
Designed as an alternative to the Bluebook, "the Maroonbook, as this manual is commonly called, offers a simple, malleable framework for citation, one which authors and editors can tailor to suit their purposes."

Reading legal citations

General guide

Reading legal citations, Boston College Law Library.
This is a great source on how to read legal citations in general.

Quick guide to understanding Massachusetts citations

The information below is a "quick and dirty" guide to common Massachusetts citation forms and what they mean. In most cases, they are not the proper forms for citing sources in a legal document. These will help you read, but not write, Massachusetts citations.


Massachusetts General Law citations will typically look like one of the following:

M.G.L. ch.93A §1 (Official set)
M.G.L.A. ch.93A §1 (Thomson/West)
A.L.M. ch.93A §1 (LexisNexis)

All of these refer to Massachusetts General Law, chapter 93A, section 1. The different abbreviations simply refer to the same laws published by different legal companies. The general laws are published as a multi-volume set and are organized by topic.

Session laws (aka "acts and resolves") are organized chronologically.  Each bill that becomes law is given a chapter number based on the chronological order in which it was adopted.  E.g. St.2022, c.126 is the 126th bill that was passed during the 2022 legislative session.


The most common case citations are to Mass. Reports, Mass. Appeals Court Reports, or the Northeastern Reporter. These look something like this:

Tyree v. Keane, 400 Mass. 1, 507 N.E.2d 742 (1987).

This refers to volume 400 of Massachusetts Reports, page 1 or volume 507 of Northeastern Reporter 2d, page 742. The same case is found in those 2 locations. The Mass. citation is the "official cite," the NE2d citation is the "unofficial" citation. When sources talk about "parallel" citations, they mean different citations to the same case. This is the same case appearing in 2 different books. The unofficial reporter includes some additional editorial content, but the text of the case itself is exactly the same as in the official.

Comm. v. Thomas, 19 Mass. App. Ct. 1, 471 N.E.2d 376 (1984)

Similarly, this refers to volume 19 of the Massachusetts Appeals Court Reports, page 1 or volume 471 of Northeastern Reporter 2d, page 376.


Usually, references to Massachusetts regulations will look like:

102 CMR 2.00

This is Title 102 of the Code of Massachusetts Regulations, chapter 2.00. The first number is assigned to the various state agencies, in this case, the Dept. of Early Education and Care.

Print sources

ALWD guide to legal citation, Association of Legal Writing Directors, 2021.

The Bluebook: A uniform system of citation, Harvard Law Review Association, 2020.
The "bible" of legal citation.

Handbook of legal research in Massachusetts, 5th ed., MCLE, 2023.

Legal writing and analysis in a nutshell, West, 2017.

Legal citation in a nutshell, West, 2021.
Extensively covers Bluebook and ALWD forms.

Legal research and writing for paralegals II, MCLE, 2017.

Prince's dictionary of legal abbreviations, Hein, 2017.

Prince's dictionary of legal citations, Hein, 2021.

User's guide to the Bluebook, Hein, 2010.

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Last updated: November 9, 2023

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