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In a civil pleading, is it inappropriate to cite case law or statute?

Los Angeles, CA |

I know state has different pleading standards than federal, in CA, can we cite case law and statute in the complaint?

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Attorney answers 4


Yes, it is sometimes appropriate to cite a single case or statute within a cause of action in a complaint or answer. Just don't overdo it.


Attorney Chen is astute and correct. A specific cite to a statute that is in point to the facts of a particular cause of action may help frame the basis for the cause of action. Case law on the other hand is usually arguable and distinguishable based on unique facts, and may do more harm than good in that a litigious defendant may file a motion to strike the case law citations.

Richard A. Rodgers, Esq.
(805) 230-2525

As stated in the AVVO.COM Terms and Conditions of Use, this answer is not intended as legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship or privilige is created by this response.


If you're talking about a complaint or an answer, I would not cite case law and rarely include statutes. My reasoning is that these documents are not for persuasion of the court but, rather, to establish the ultimate facts being alleged in the case or your affirmative defenses to those allegations. If you're talking about motions and such, the answer is absolutely. Statutes are usually cited first as that's the law; cases are interpretations of statutes.


Indeed, statutes often need to be cited in a complaint but this is not the point of proving your case. Case law is not really appropriate, generally speaking, at the complaint stage.

This is intended to be general guidance and not necessarily state specific advice. There are some concepts that are the same or similar in most jurisdictions but not all. Use the web site to find an attorney in your area for state specific advice. In addition to that, contact your local bar association for referral to an attorney who specializes in this or talk to friends and neighbors to ask about an attorney they have used and liked. Often, but not always, the attorney will do an initial consultation free of charge. You will then be in a better position to determine what to do next. Best of luck to you!

If you liked this answer, click on the thumbs up or vote it best answer! Thanks. Eliz. C. A. Johnson Post Office Box 8 Danville, California 94526-0008 Legal disclaimer: I do not practice law in any state but California. As such, any responses to posted inquiries, such as the one above, are limited to a general understanding of law in California and not to any other jurisdiction. In addition, no response to any posted inquiry should be deemed to constitute legal advice, nor to constitute the existence of an attorney/client or other contractual or fiduciary relationship, inasmuch as legal advice can only be provided in circumstances in which the attorney is able to ask questions of the person seeking legal advice and to thus gather appropriate information.

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