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Law Library News for January 28, 2002

Ann Hemmens, editor

Law Library News Archive


Library Shifting Project

by Larisa Bosma

Have you noticed some changes in the Reference Stacks on the second floor? The Gallagher Law Library staff asks your patience while we work on a project that involves consistent relocation of materials throughout the Library. Certain items are being reclassified (assigned new call numbers) to keep current with the Library of Congress' classification scheme. The project will eventually involve movement of the Library's entire collection, but right now the activity is contained within the Reference Stacks. Please pardon our dust and confusion while we keep the Library up to date.

In-the-Trenches Guide to Legal Abbreviations

by Sarah Hollingsworth, Reference Intern

One of the earliest rites of passage that every student of law must confront head-on is mastering the ordinary tools of the lawyer�s trade---namely, finding and communicating the law. To the uninitiated, this is no mean feat in light of the fact that the finding half of that equation requires, first and foremost, an ability to decipher the arcane code of legal citation. And even if one is well past the liminal stage of connecting the dots between and among rule of law, source of law, and citation, recent events have conspired to make the once mundane task of deciphering obscure legal abbreviations a bit more complicated than in yesteryear. Examples of such events include the judiciary�s expanding acceptance of non-traditional sources of authority; the continuing proliferation of decision-making public agencies with their ubiquitous, mind-numbing acronyms; the global trend toward professional specializations, including the evolution of specialty vocabularies; and, of course, the ever-increasing ability of courts and practitioners to obtain Internet access to previously inaccessible sources of �authority.�

The bad news is that all of these factors (and more) go into the mix of making legal authority these days something of �a moving target� (See Christina L. Kunz, The Process of Legal Research xxiii (5th ed. 2000)) and thereby rendering the task of finding and hitting the mark, citation-wise, a bit more of a challenge than it used to be. The good news, however, is that there are a number of finding aids located here in the Gallagher Law Library that index and describe legal abbreviations, common and uncommon alike. The purpose of this article, therefore, is to suggest some in-the-trenches resources that may come in handy for anyone who is interested in improving their aim at the �moving target� of legal authority.

Bieber's Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations: A Reference Guide for Attorneys, Legal Secretaries, Paralegals, and Law Students (M. M. Prince ed. 5th ed. 2001). KF246.B46 2001 at Reserve & Reference Office
This no-frills, workhorse of over 30,000 legal abbreviations was compiled and edited by career, reference law librarians. More decoder than dictionary, its entries are limited to American and English legal abbreviations that are compiled without benefit of cross-references, creating repetitive minutiae (at least in the paper version). In spite of its minor detractions, however, this unpretentious reference tool does exactly what it says it will do---it helps make sense of the ubiquitous letter symbols found in American legal literature. A note of caution: Bieber�s Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations comes with a companion volume, Bieber�s Dictionary of Legal Citations (KF246.B45 2001 at Reserve & Reference Office). While there are many situations where the latter volume may be useful, the decryption of legal abbreviations will not, in all likelihood, be among them. Copies of the most current edition of Bieber�s Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations can be found in Reserve and the Reference Office; older editions are on the shelves in the Classified Stacks under the same call number. Bieber�s Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations is also available online through Lexis-Nexis: LEXREF; BIEBLA.
The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (17th ed. 2000). KF245 .U5 2000 at Reserve, Reference Office & Quick Reference Floor 6
The Bluebook remains the undisputed gold standard for formatting and analyzing legal citations, despite sustained efforts to find a more manageable alternative. Criticized by many for its unwieldy format, The Bluebook nonetheless serves as a particularly useful resource for decoding abbreviations for early state official reporters (see Table 1, for U. S. jurisdictions listed alphabetically) and legal periodicals (see Table 13). Opinions vary, of course, but The Bluebook is also considered by some as the court of last resort for untangling mysterious citation knots of the Gordian variety. In this regard, a logical (and surprisingly helpful) place to begin is with the first entry, Abbreviations, in the index. Copies of older editions are located in the Classified Stacks.
The United States Government Manual, Appendix A: Commonly Used Abbreviations (2001/2002 ed. JK 421.U57 2001/2002 at Reserve & Reference Office
Appropriately shortened to USGM, this small paperback is one of several �fast and easy� sources to search when you need to find the name of a federal agency or hearing board. Appendix A of the current edition contains a straightforward list of agency-related abbreviations and acronyms arranged alphabetically. Thus, sample entries include:
  • HUD = Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • JAG = Judge Advocate General
  • UNICOR = Federal Prison Industries, Inc.

At Gallagher, paper copies of the most current editions of the USGM are on the shelves in Reserve and the Reference Office, with older versions located in the Classified Stacks. A handy link to the free USGM is also embedded in MARIAN, the Gallagher Law Library online catalog. Ootherwise, this useful government publication can be viewed at
World Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations (Igor L. Kavass & M. M. Prince, eds. 1991/2001. K865.K3 1991 at Reference Office & Quick Reference Floor 6
The World Dictionary is a four-volume, loose-leaf tome that undertakes three discreet tasks. The first is a list of abbreviations, arranged first by language group and then by continent or country, found in legal literature around the world. The second comprises a collection, set out in Appendix A, of abbreviations and sigla found in legal documents written before 1607. Obviously intended for use by serious scholars of law, history, and history of law, this section of the World Dictionary includes legal abbreviations found in Roman, medieval, civil, canon, and English common law. The third undertaking, the results of which can be found in Appendix B, is a compilation of legal abbreviations by subject, which remains a work-in-progress. To date, legal abbreviations have been compiled for the subject areas of Environment, Maritime, Military, Taxation, and United Nations. Although this scope of coverage by subject is still quite narrow, the depth of coverage on the subjects reported to date is noteworthy.
Black�s Law Dictionary (Bryan A. Garner, ed. 7th ed. 1999. KF156.B53 1999 at Reserve, Reference Office & Reading Room
This guide would be incomplete without mentioning the classic, Black's Law Dictionary, which contains (in addition to its 24,000 legal definitions) a separate list of abbreviations commonly found in American legal references. For those who have not yet discovered this bit of Gallagher trivia, multiple copies of Black�s Law Dictionary (in various editions) have been placed atop the divider shelves throughout the Reading Room. Additional copies, together with older editions dating back to the first in 1891, can also be found at the given call number location in the classified stacks. The 7th edition is also available on Westlaw: BLACKS.
Abbreviations Dictionary, by Ralph De Sola (7th ed. 1986). PE1693.D4 1986 at Reference Office
This dictionary of abbreviations includes a greater number of international, cultural, scientific, geographical, and historical sources, and correspondingly fewer, expressly American legal abbreviations than any of the other resources listed here. Thus, it may be especially useful in analyses of international law references, as well as in cases where a citation abbreviation remains stubbornly illusive. The author�s stated purpose in selecting entries for this dictionary was to find order in the midst of �abbreviatiorial acronmyical� [sic] chaos (p. ix), and his efforts toward that end have produced a volume that easily merits a place on the top ten list of �The Most Diverting Books in Gallagher Law Library.� While this sleeper�s lists of dysphemistic place-names and bafflegabs may be unlikely sources of answers to thorny problems in citation analysis, they may nonetheless provide fast relief in unexpected ways for sufferers of common citation chaos, otherwise known as chronic congestion of cited passages, to which students of legal research are believed to be particularly susceptible. This result, it should be noted, is completely (and happily) consistent with the author�s professed and implied objectives for this work. Only one copy of the current edition of the Abbreviations Dictionary is in Gallagher, and that can be found on the shelf in the Reference Office. An older version, the 1977 fifth edition, can be found in the classified stacks at the call number noted above.