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U.S. Law Research guide: Legislative Law

United States Code

United States Code [U.S.C.](Ref KF 62 <year> .A2 ... 2d floor). The U. S. Code is a subject arrangement of the general and permanent laws of the U. S. from 1789 on. Since 1926, the United States Code has been published every six years. In between editions, annual cumulative supplements are published in order to present the most current information. The emphasis is on laws of a public and permanent nature and thus, will not include private laws, repealed acts, expired acts, or laws not of a general interest here. This compilation is composed of 50 broad subject sections or "titles" (i.e., Title 29 is Labor, Title 35 is Patents). Under each title you will find rewritten texts of the law and citations to statutory authority. The U. S. Code contains separate indexes for subjects, acts by popular name, and governmental agencies. The U.S. Code is also available via LexisNexis Academic (http://library.csun.edu/restricted/lexis.scr) (Legal Research/Federal Code)*. On the Internet use GPO Access: U.S. Code (http://www.gpoaccess.gov/uscode/index.html) or FindLaw's US Code (http://www.findlaw.com/casecode/uscodes/).

Session Laws (Statutes)

  • United States Statutes at Large [Stat., Stat. at L.] (ref KF 50 ... 2d floor and in storage) provides the original and verbatim text of all public and private laws ("Acts") ever enacted by Congress. Additional documents contained in this service include: 1) joint and concurrent resolutions (since 1893), 2) executive agreements (since 1931), 3) reorganization plans (since 1939), 4) constitutional amendments, 5) all treaties before 1950, and 6) some presidential proclamations. Each volume of U. S. Statutes at Large contains an index of subjects, names, and agencies. The arrangement of this set is chronological, by session of Congress.
  • If you know the popular name of an act, look up that name in Shepard's Acts and Cases by Popular Names (ref KF 90 .S52 ... Ref Rm) and you will find citations to Statutes at Large, U. S. Code, etc. If you do not know the Public Law (P.L.) number for a current session law, check the various conversion charts in Commerce Clearing House. Congressional Index (ref J69 .C6 ... ref room table 8).
  • From the 104th Congress (1995-1996) to the present, public laws are also available on the Internet via GPO Access: Public and Private Laws (http://www.gpoaccess.gov/plaws/index.html) and are keyword searchable. If you know the bill or resolution number or public law number, you can find the text of public laws from the 93rd Congress (1973-1974) to present on the Internet via THOMAS (http://thomas.loc.gov/home/thomas.php#).



Beginning with the 101st Congress (1989-90), the full-text of House and Senate Bills are on the Internet at THOMAS (http://thomas.loc.gov/home/thomas.php#) and are searchable by keyword or bill number. Also available via the GPO Access: Congressional Bills. (http://www.gpoaccess.gov/bills/index.html) since the 103rd  Congress (1993-1994).  Historic bills and resolutions (http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/amlaw/lwhbsb.html) are available for selected sessions of Congress, beginning with the 6th Congress in the House of Representatives and the 16th Congress in the Senate and continuing through the 42nd Congress (approximately 1799-1873 for the House and 1823-1873 for the Senate).


From the 97th Congress, 1st Session (1981) through the 106th Congress, 2d session (2000), House and Senate Bills and Resolutions are on Microfiche. An index to the microfiche collection of bills entitled Superintendent of Documents Cumulative Finding Aid for Congressional Bills and Resolutions is located at the Microform Desk, and a second copy is at the Reference Desk. This index is by Bill or Resolution number and refers you to the appropriate sheet of microfiche. For subject access to Bills see Index to Bills below.

Index to Bills:

There are two different index sets that can be used for research on bills:

  • Commerce Clearing House. Congressional Index,1967 - present. (Ref J 69 .C6. Recent sessions, Ref Rm, table 8 & 2nd floor). All public bills and resolutions are listed, indexed, summarized, and have their progress reported in this weekly updated loose-leaf index. Pending measures are indexed by subject, author, headline terms, and number. The voting record of congressmen on each House or Senate bill is given. A numerical listing of all Senate and House bills identifies all sponsors and the subject of the bill. House and Senate status tables report action on each bill in a numerical arrangement. Separate listings identify an enactment by bill number, subject, author and public law number. Cross references to companion bill numbers are also provided.
  • Congressional Information Service. CIS Index, 1970 - present.  (Ref Z 1223 .Z7 C6 ... Ref Rm, table 8). Monthly and annually cumulated issues of this reference work are published in two sections: An index section containing subject, title, bill number, report and document number indexes for all congressional documentation. The bill number index identifies all bills that have become the subject of hearings, reports or other publications by Congress. All citations in this index refer to entries in the abstracts section where full bibliographic descriptions of the congressional documentation can be found.

Legislative History

A legislative history is the history of the legislative process of a bill in order to locate its current status, monitor its progress, and determine the legislators' intent behind the enactment of the law. Compiling a legislative history involves reading a copy of the bill (various versions), committee hearings, reports and prints, the debates, and presidential messages.