A paper commonly used in various courts—such as a probate, matrimonial, or traffic court—that is served upon an individual to notify him or her that he or she is required to appear at a specific time and place.
Reference to a legal authority—such as a case, constitution, or treatise—where particular information may be found.
Cases are published in a series of books called reporters, which are compilations of judicial decisions made in a certain court, state, or jurisdiction. Reporters are published in consecutively numbered volumes, each of which contains the most recently decided cases. When the volume numbers on a set of reporters get too high, the publisher will begin a new set with a new series of numbers.
To refer to a particular case in a reporter, a designation including the volume number, the name of the reporter, and the page number is given. If, for example, a case decided in the U.S. Supreme Court were cited as 60 S. Ct. 710, the case would be in volume 60 of the Supreme Court Reporter on page 710. To promote uniformity of citations, many lawyers and law students use The Blue Book: A Uniform System of Citation, commonly referred to simply as The Blue Book. This manual is published jointly by law schools at Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and the University of Pennsylvania. Other citation manuals have also been published.
When a court issues a citation, it orders a person to appear at a certain time and place. Failure by the person to adhere to the requirements in a citation results in punishment by the court. On appeal, a court may issue a citation of appeal, giving parties notice of the appeal and ordering them to appear in court. Issuance of a citation is required in order to give an appellate court jurisdiction over the appeal. The clerk of a court is generally required to issue a citation.
Police officers also issue citations for minor offenses, especially for traffic violations. The citation that an officer gives to a violator states the charge and requires an appearance before a judge on a specified date, subject to punishment for failure to appear. Citations issued by police officers for minor violations are typically only admissible for a criminal action that is based upon the violation. In most jurisdictions, evidence of an arrest from a citation is not admissible in a civil action based upon the same facts.