By Ann Marie Melvie, Librarian, Court of Appeal for Saskatchewan
and Joanne V. Colledge-Miller, MacPherson Leslie & Tyerman LLP
The Citation Guide for the Courts of Saskatchewan introduces a new way to reference case law or statutes that have previously been referred to in written materials. This new approach is designed to simplify references to previously cited authorities.
In the past, if you were writing a brief or a written argument and needed to refer to a decision already cited, you might have written the name of the case and then added “supra” or “above”. The Guide now simply requires that you create a “short form” of the case when you first cite to it. For example:
The Supreme Court of Canada in Housen v Nikolaisen, 2002 SCC 33,  2 SCR 235 [Housen], established the standard for appellate review…
Then, when you want to refer to that same case again, simply reference the short form. For example:
In Housen, the Supreme Court confirmed the standard of review for a question of mixed fact and law…
There is consequently no longer a need to put “supra“, “above”, “hereinbefore” or any other statement after you refer to the selected short form.
This short form applies equally when referring to a statute, though if you are only referring to one statute, you may simply create a short form in this way: “The Sale of Goods Act, RSS 1978, c S-1 [the Act]”. If referring to numerous statutes, you would create identifiable short forms for those statutes. For example:
The interplay between The Class Actions Act, SS 2001, c C-12.01 [CAA] and The Limitations Act, SS 2004, c L-16.1 [Limitations Act] can be seen in …
There is also no rule when it comes to selecting the short form to use for court decisions. It should ideally be a part of the case name that is easy to identify, but it does not have to be the plaintiff’s name. It could just as easily be the defendant’s name, an acronym of one of the parties, or in some circumstances, a name by which the case is well-known, even if not part of the indexed case name. All that is required is that the selected short form makes sense in the context of the case name.
What is more important is the emphasis the Guide places on the use of in-text citations. While this is certainly not mandated by the Guide, it is recommended for several reasons.
Footnotes are easy for the writer, but they are not so easy for the reader. The reader needs to be able to quickly assess the weight to be given to any cited case law or statute. As our earlier blog posts have established, all citations, at a minimum, must include the year, jurisdiction and level of court precisely so that the reader can identify how much weight to give any cited authority.
Consequently, when a writer puts all the citation information in a footnote or an endnote, readers have to interrupt their reading and shift their gaze to find this crucial information. It is significantly easier on the reader, who will ultimately be a judge, to get this information within the body of the text they are reading, rather than having to constantly jump to footnotes or endnotes.
This does not mean that you should never use footnotes. When referring to a secondary source, it is likely that the only information the reader will need to assess weight is the name of the author and not necessarily the name of the journal the article was published in or the name and location of the publisher. In those cases where the secondary source citation is long, a writer can refer to the author in the text, and then use a footnote for the full citation. Additionally, parenthetical information can and should still be footnoted, and if warranted, pinpoint references to evidence can also be footnoted.
To be clear though, the Guide does not mandate the use of in-text citations over footnotes or endnotes. It simply encourages in-text citations to assist the reader and highlights the importance of the year, jurisdiction and level of court in any citation.
So what does this mean to you?
The Guide simplifies how previously cited case law and statutes should be referred to and encourages the use of in-text citations rather than footnotes in written materials.
|This is part 5 of a 7-part series on the Citation Guide for the Courts of Saskatchewan: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 6 | Part 7|
Ann Marie Melvie is the Librarian at the Court of Appeal for Saskatchewan, having served in this position since 2001. She received her Bachelor of Education from the University of Saskatchewan and her diploma as a Library Technician from SIAST.
Joanne V. Colledge-Miller is currently an associate at MacPherson Leslie & Tyerman LLP, practicing in the areas of commercial litigation and class actions.