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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.

Research Checklist - Statutes

1.  Analyze your legal problem and come up with relevant search terms.

2.  Pinpoint the timeline. If the statute has been amended since the time in question, consider the likely possibility that the prior version is the relevant one for the problem.

3.  Use a secondary source on the topic to get started. If there's one specifically written for the topic in the jurisdiction at issue, choose that one as a starting place. A good secondary source should alert a researcher to relevant statutory sections.

4.  A full-text search and/or index search in the relevant statutory code should also be performed to lead to pertinent statutory provisions.

5.  Read statutory sections carefully; be sure to read the correct version of the statute (see step #2 above).

6.  Read pertinent annotations, such as Notes of Decisions. Understanding how courts have interpreted the statute is a crucial step.

7.  Look for cross-references or other applicable sections, such as definitions or references to applicable administrative regulations.

8.  Update the statutory section, if dealing with a current issue;

        a.  Use KeyCite or Shepard's to make sure there hasn't been negative treatment of the statute;

        b.  Double-check for any new legislation by checking the Office of Law Revision Counsel's Classification Tables; and

9.  Review secondary sources for better understanding of the legal issues.