We often hear that proper citations and “bluebooking” really do not matter, but judges may disagree. Last week the Supreme Court of North Carolina released an opinion in Cummings v. Ortega that reversed a trial court’s order granting a medical malpractice plaintiff a new trial. The substantive law involved the admissibility of juror affidavits, but the Supreme Court also provided a stark reminder for all brief-writers. In footnote 3, the Supreme Court remarked:
As a matter of appellate practice, we must note our disapproval of plaintiff’s counsel’s failure to cite to authority properly in his brief. Counsel failed to indicate that his quotations from Tanner came from Justice Marshall’s dissenting opinion. Further, without properly setting forth the case’s subsequent history, counsel inappropriately quoted from a Court of Appeals opinion that we reversed. See Lindsey v. Boddie-Noell Enters., Inc., 147 N.C. App. 166, 555 S.E.2d 369 (2001), rev’d per curiam, 355 N.C. 487, 562 S.E.2d 420 (2002).
Appendix B of the North Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure requires citations to follow the “most recent version of A Uniform System of Citation” (i.e., “the Bluebook”). Bluebook Rule B4.1.5 requires briefs to “[a]lways indicate when you are citing a concurring or dissenting opinion.” Under Rule 10.7, “[w]henever a decision is cited in full, give the entire subsequent history of the case”—and an attorney should most certainly remember to include negative subsequent history. Cummings v. Ortega serves as a not-so-friendly reminder that proper bluebooking and formatting actually do matter to our appellate courts.
The Supreme Court’s full opinion can be found here.