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Treaty Research Guide: Rule 21.4 of Bluebook

Focus: Bluebook-compliant treaty sources.

Tips To Apply Rule 21.4 (Treaties) of The Bluebook

1. If you do not know what the abbreviations in rule 21.4: Treaties stand for, Table 4 of The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (Columbia Law Review Ass'n et al. eds., 20th ed. 2015) provides full titles of abbreviated treaty sources. 

2. To apply rule 21.4, determine whether the U.S. is a party to the treaty.

Sources that answer this threshold question:

3. If you find a cite to the treaty, copy the cite.

4. If the U.S. is a party to the treaty, apply either rule 21.4.5(a)(i) [primarily: bilateral treaties] or rule 21.4.5(a)(ii) [multilateral treaties].

5. If the U.S. is not a party to the treaty, apply rule 21.4.5(b).

  • Requires researchers to cite to one source published by an international organization.
  • If a treaty does not appear in a source published by an international organization, researchers can cite to the treaty in the unofficial document collection: International Legal Materials (I.L.M.). Finally, if a treaty does not appear in International Legal Materials, researchers can cite to the treaty as posted at a government's website, an intergovernmental body's website, or other sources listed on p. 206 of The Bluebook.

Components of a Bluebook-compliant Cite

Components of a Bluebook-compliant treaty cite:

  • Treaty name
  • Abbreviated names of treaty parties (include only if treaty is between 2 parties)
  • Reference to a specific treaty article (example: art. 1) or subdivision, if you wish to create a pinpont cite
  • Date of signing (or, if parties signed treaty on different dates: date opened for signature, approved, ratified or adopted & indicate significance of date in italics)
  • Treaty source or sources

Examples:

Bilateral treaty & U.S. is a party:

Convention for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income, U.S.-Austl., art. 1, Aug. 6, 1982, 35 U.S.T. 1999. 

Multilateral treaty & U.S. is a party:

Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies art. 6, adopted Dec. 5, 1979, 18 U.S.T. 2410, 610 U.N.T.S. 205.

Multilateral treaty & U.S. is not a party:   

Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties art. 32, opened for signature May 23, 1969, 1155 U.N.T.S. 331.