Citation Style for a General Audience

The Alberta Supreme Court at 100: History & Authority, ed. Jonathan Swainger (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press / Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, 2007) arrived in my mailbox today. I haven’t read the whole book, but my superficial impression is that it is, in substance, an interesting and useful contribution to the literature.

What caught my eye, though, were the case citations. Here are some examples:
Page 24, note 41: R. v. Cyr, Alberta Law Reports 12, (1917-18):336
Page 62, note 16: R. v. Nan-E-Quis-A-Ka, NWT, Territories Law Reports [cited hereafter TLR] 1(1889):211
Page 92, note 1: Valente v. The Queen, SCR 2 (1985):673
Page 127, note 4: Canada v. Alberta, AC, 589 (1916)(P.C.)
Page 192, note 143: Hutterian Brethren Church of Starland v. Starland No. 47 (Municipal District), (1991), Municipal and Planning Law Reports, 2nd ser., 6 (1991):67 (Alberta Court of Appeal)
Page 223, notes 63 and 64, citing Chuckery v. The Queen, referred to at page 205 of the text: SCR (1973):694. The Supreme Court of Canada adopted the reasoning of the dissent in the Manitoba Court of Appeal decision in Manitoba Judgements, no. 15
Page 293, note 54, citing T.(P.) v. B.R., referred to at page 275 of the text: 2004 Carswell Alberta, 906; RFL, 5th ser., 50 (2004):206
Page 328, note 116: R. v. M.L., Alberta Judgments (1998), No. 243 (Quicklaw)

You get the idea. I don’t imagine that these citations would stump a regular reader of SLAW for any length of time. If my instincts are reliable, however, some poor administrative assistant must have been asked to spend hours and hours taking the citations provided by the authors and re-styling them for purposes of the book. I wonder why.

The University of Alberta Press website lists a number of “Style books for academic writing and editing”, including The Chicago Manual of Style, 14th ed. (1993). The 15th ed. (2003), para. 17.275, refers readers to the ordinary legal stylebooks, but adds: “In nonlegal works, the rules may be adjusted to the style of the surrounding documentation; providing adequate information to help readers find a source is more important than slavishly following prescribed forms of abbreviation and the like.” Para. 17.325 refers readers to the ordinary Canadian legal stylebooks, adding “All should be referred to by writers or editors of specialized works in Canadian history and law.”


  1. We should pass this on to the Osgoode Society which must have assumed that the University of Alberta Press would have followed in the footsteps of U of T Press and Irwin Law in providing excellent production work for the Osgoode Society books while being squarely within the citation tradition. I find it bizarre that the University of Alberta Press editorial staff reckoned that some sort of bastardized humanities citation system could be applied to law.
    I was involved in the first two editions of the McGill Guide, which I thought represented progress,