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Statutory Research

This guide discusses what statutes are; how statutes fit into legal research; how statutes are published; where they can be found online & in print; how to update statutes; how to find 50 state statutory surveys; & the role of uniform/model laws.

About This Guide

This guide explains:

  • What statutes are and how statutory research fits into a larger research strategy;
  • How and where statutes are published both online and in print;
  • How to update statutory research and how to find historical statutes; and
  • Special statutory sources such as 50 state surveys and collections of uniform and model laws

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 lawssession 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. 

Session laws are chronological compilations of the laws passed by a particular legislature within each session. 

Codes are topical arrangements of all the permanent general laws in force in a particular jurisdiction at a particular point in time. 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.