I'm currently finishing up the final proofing of an article that is very heavy on statutory citations. The experience is once again bringing up one of my Bluebook pet peeves -- the Bluebook's requirement for the year of a statute.
There are lots of people who complain endlessly about the Bluebook, but I'm not usually one of them as I generally like the Bluebook . . . except when it comes to this issue.
When you cite to a statute, you have to include a parenthetical with a year in it. What useful information might that year convey? Like the year of a book, an article, a case, or almost anything else you would cite to, it might convey the year that statute came into existence. That would be somewhat useful information, no doubt. It certainly gets complex with statutes because they are changed more frequently, but information about when the statute or provision was written could indeed be useful.
However, that's not what the Bluebook requires. Instead, the Bluebook wants "the year that appears on the spine of the volume, the year that appears on the title page, or the latest copyright year -- in that order of preference." So, instead of getting information about when the statute was written, we get information about when the entire volume of code (or sub-volume, for re-issued individual books within the entire code) was published. How does that help in understanding the individual provision cited to? In no way whatsoever.
What makes this particularly enraging is that student editors rarely know this rule. Instead, they cite to the year on the source they go to for cite-checking purposes -- the copyright of the online version in Westlaw or Lexis. And that year is always the current year, so you wind up with every statute having the same parenthetical -- (2011). Which is the twin horror of being both wrong AND useless.
What's the solution? In my mind, it's what one of the journals I worked on in law school did, which is to just get rid of the year in a statutory cite altogether. What matters, after all, is that the statute is still on the books, not much other information. If other information does matter, such as the year the statute was adopted or revised, it's probably been discussed in the text anyway. And, if for some reason the statute has different text or content in different codifications, then that also should be discussed in the text in some way.
But for your run-of-the-mill citation to a statute, get rid of the year. Anything else is just complete nonsense.