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Monday, May 09, 2005

The Bluebook is a Harsh Mistress

Now, from the Footnotes-Only-an-Editor-Could-Love Department, comes this. 

It's footnote 11 from Bell and Parchomovsky's great new property piece.  And it reads, in its entirety:

--- 

See id.  (

To perhaps a greater extent than even the legal scholars, modern economists assume that property consists of an ad hoc collection of rights in resources. Indeed, there is a tendency among economists to use the term property ‘to describe virtually every device—public or private, common-law or regulatory, contractual or governmental, formal or informal—by which divergences between private and social costs or benefits are reduced.

(citations omitted)).

---

Yes, the entire paren is a blockquote.  The open and close parenthesis are not block-quoted, however, and neither is the (citation omitted).  The result looks pretty silly.  (The length of the quoted text, by the way, is 66 words, or 17 past the limit of 49 which normally triggers block-quotes.)

Now I understand the need for uniformity.  But this case strikes me as a prime example of a case when an exception to the rule makes more sense than strict adherence.  And I must say, I think that the footnote would look much better as:

See id.  ("To perhaps a greater extent than even the legal scholars, modern economists assume that property consists of an ad hoc collection of rights in resources. Indeed, there is a tendency among economists to use the term property ‘to describe virtually every device—public or private, common-law or regulatory, contractual or governmental, formal or informal—by which divergences between private and social costs or benefits are reduced." (citations omitted)).

Posted by Kaimi Wenger on May 9, 2005 at 10:30 AM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink

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Comments

We have a similar policy at Hofstra as well, and as a Managing Editor, I would not have BQ'd it. The Bluebook is not the Bible, it's simply a collection of guidelines - generally good guidelines - and should be treated as such.

As a BB aside, the preface to the new 18th edition which is coming out in June was recently put online: http://www.legalbluebook.com/preview.pdf - looks like I've got some summer reading to do. (oy).

Posted by: Peter Siroka | May 10, 2005 1:21:55 AM

Will,

We had a generic "editors can override the bluebook if it sounds too bad" rule in the Columbia "Pink pages" (which were our internal, bluebook supplement).

(By the way, how goofy is it that at least 50% of the bluebook-publishing schools have internal supplements?).

If this had been my piece as AE, I would have strongly suggested non-block-quote form. And I suspect that our ME's, who were pretty reasonable people, would have gone along with it.

(I had a few little stylistic skirmishes with the ME's in my time, but they generally tended to be sensible in their willingness to bend rules if the rules would lead to confusion. For example, I edited a piece that cited both Hohfeld's essay, Some Fundamental Legal Conceptions as Applied to Legal Reasoning, and Hohfeld's book of essays, also titled Some Fundamental Legal Conceptions as Applied to Legal Reasoning. We hereinafter-ed the book as "Hohfeld, Essays.")

Posted by: Kaimi | May 9, 2005 1:30:18 PM

Some schools sensibly diverge from The Bluebook on this score. See, e.g., The Yale Law Journal's Volume 115 Style Sheet, section 6 (on file with The Yale Law Journal and the author) ("When a quotation is contained in a parenthetical, it should not be in the form of a block quote, even if it exceeds forty-nine words").

Posted by: Will Baude | May 9, 2005 1:21:41 PM

The bluebook does create some odd results. My legal writing classes actually used ALWD, so I look at the oddity of this citation with an even greater furrowed brow.

Posted by: Joel | May 9, 2005 12:40:20 PM

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