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Federal Statutes and Legislative Information   Tags: federal, legislative history, primary sources  

Statutes and other materials from the federal government.
Last Updated: Jul 24, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Legislative Process

Watch the video for an overview of the legislative process.


About This Guide

This guide contains:

  • Information on how to find federal codes, slip laws, and session laws in print and online;
  • Sources for U.S. Constitution and other congressional information; and
  • Descriptions of free and fee portals and research tips.

What Are Statutes?

Statutes are laws enacted by a legislative body. They are binding on persons located within the jurisdictional authority of the legislative body. Statutes are what most people call “laws.” While statutes are presumed to be clear as to their meaning, it is usually necessary to consult court decisions to determine how a particular statute is applied within the jurisdiction.


How Are Statutes Published?

Statutes are published in three different forms: slip laws, session laws and codes. Each form provides advantages for different research needs.

Slip laws are individual copies of laws published as soon as they are enacted.  For federal slip laws, the citation format is: Pub. L. 108-45.  This means it was the 45th law of the 108th Congress.

Session laws are chronological compilations of the laws passed by a particular legislature within each session.  Federal Statutes are published in the Statutes at Large and the citation format is: 107 Stat. 25.  The location of this public law is in volume 107 of the Statutes at Large and starts on page 25.

Codes are topical arrangements of all the permanent general laws in force in a particular jurisdiction at a particular point in time.  Federal Statutes are published in the United States Code and the citation format is:  26 USC 115.  This indicates that the statute can be found in Title 26, Section 115 of the United States Code.

Most statutory legal research is conducted using codes, since they provide the most complete picture of what the law is at a particular time by bringing related provisions together and incorporating amendments into the text. A special type of code, called an annotated code, provides references to cases that have applied the statute, and to other research aids.


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