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Statutes are laws (or acts) enacted by legislatures. These legislative acts become law with or without the approval of the President. Federal statutes may be published in two formats: public and private laws and codified law. Public and private laws are published in the format that is signed by the two chambers of the United States Congress and the President. Codified law is published in a subject-arranged format. Codes are commonly called current law because a code section consists of the original law that created the code section and subsequent amendments integrated together. Both public and private laws and codified law are available in print and electronic sources. Statutes may be found by using the citation, the popular name, or by subject.

Sources of Statutes

Statutes are published in chronological order by date of passage. Most citations consist of the public law number and its location in the United States Statutes at Large (Example: Pub. L. 108-45, 107 Stat. 25). Each law receives a unique public or private law number which has two parts: the number of the U. S. Congress, and a sequentially assigned number (Example: Pub. L. 108-45 is the 45th law passed during the 108th Congress). The location of this public law is in United States Statutes at Large, volume 107 page 25.

The first form in which a statute is available is the slip law. A slip law is published immediately after the passage of the law. Slip laws, dating from the 101st Congress (1989/1990) are available electronically on THOMAS ( http://thomas.loc.gov ). Slip laws for the current Congress are available in print at the Reference Desk.

Statutes are published by public law number in two print sources: United States Statutes at Large and United States Code Congressional and Administrative News (USCCAN). The official compilation, United States Statutes at Large, is published by the United States Government Printing Office at the end of each session of Congress. A subject index appears at the end of each volume. The United States Statutes at Large in print is located in Row 7 in the Law Library Reading Room. Since the United States Statutes at Large is published by the U. S. Government Printing Office, public and private laws are available on the United States Government Printing Office web site: http://www.fdys.gov.

Public laws are reprinted by public law number in the United States Code Congressional and Administrative News published by West Group, a private company. Each month current laws are published in advance sheets (pamphlets) and reissued as bound volumes after the end of each session of Congress. Advance sheets and bound volumes contain cumulative subject indexes for the session and tables for locating laws by popular name and by affected United States Code section. USCCAN contains major committee reports and sometimes Presidential signing statements as part of its Legislative History section for the public laws. USCCAN is located in Row 1 in the Law Library Reading Room.

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Subject Arrangement of Statutes

A code is a subject arrangement of general statutes of a permanent nature currently in force for a specific jurisdiction. Laws passed by the U. S. Congress have been compiled into two codes: Revised Statutes of 1875 and the United States Code, which began in 1926. The Revised Statutes of 1875 is a compilation of statutes enacted during the period of 1789 through 1873. It will only be necessary to consult the Revised Statutes of 1875 if a statute was repealed after the compilation of the Revised Statutes but prior to the first compilation of the United States Code. A copy of the Revised Statutes is located at the Reference Desk and Row 5.

The United States Code is organized into fifty (50) subject titles and has a multi-volume index which includes a Popular Name Table. The citation for the United States Code includes the title number (subject category) and the section number (Example: 26 USC 115 indicates that the information can be found in Title 26 and section 115 of the United States Code.) The Code is revised every six years with annual supplements published in hard bound volumes. The supplements contain any revisions to the Code during the prior year and updated tables. The United States Code is located in Row 2.

Two other commercially published versions of the United States Code are available: The United States Code Annotated (West) and United States Code Service (LEXIS). Both versions use the same organization and citation style but provide references to cases and regulations that interpret statutes and are updated more frequently. Both versions are updated by the use of pocket-part supplements. Also, as with the United States Code, both titles have multi-volume indices and volumes with supplemental tables. Both the United States Code Annotated and the United States Code Service are located on Row 4.

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Locating Statues

You want to see the text of the law as it was originally passed by Congress:

IF YOU KNOW ... TO LOCATE THE LAW, CHECK...
1. A citation to the law by public or private law number (Pub. L. 108-79 or Priv. L. 108-2) or a citation to where the law appears in the United States Statutes at Large (117 Stat. 972). Print: For both public and private laws, check the appropriate volume of the United States Statutes at Large. For public laws only, you can also use the United States Code Congressional and Administrative News (USCCAN). For public laws from the current Congress, check the supplements to USCCAN or the Advance Sheets of the United States Code Service.

Electronic: For both public and private laws, check GPO FDsys(http://www.fdsys.gov) under the heading 'Legislative Resources'. For public laws only, check the Library of Congress THOMAS web site (http://thomas.loc.gov). (Note: Public laws in THOMAS can be searched only by public law citation.)
2. The name of the law. Print: The Popular Name Table in the United States Code (GPO), United States Code Annotated (USCA - West), or the United States Code Service (USCS - LEXIS) should be consulted. If you are looking for a recent law, check the same tables in the most current supplement available to USCCAN or in the Advance Sheets for the United States Code Service. Additionally, you can consult Shepard's Acts and Cases by Popular Name.

Electronic: Both GPO Access and THOMAS can be used to find laws by name. In THOMAS you will need to use the 'Search Bills and Resolutions' feature that will allow you to search either Bill Summary and Status or Full Text and type the name of the law in the Word/phrase slot.

You want to locate the law in the United States Code:

IF YOU KNOW ... TO LOCATE THE LAW, CHECK...
1. A citation to the public law number (Pub. L. 108-79) or where the law is published in the United States Statutes at Large (117 Stat. 974). Print: Check the Table of Statutes at Large in the appropriate Tables volume of the United States Code, United States Code Annotated, or United States Code Service. The corresponding United States Code citation for public laws can be found in the left-hand or right-hand margins of the Statutes at Large or USCCAN.

Electronic: Check the United States Code web site (http://uscode.house.gov)
2. The name of the law. Print: The Popular Name Table in the United States Code, United States Code Annotated or United States Code Service should be consulted. If you are looking for a recent law, check the same tables in the most current supplement available to USCCAN or in the Advance Sheets for the United States Code Service. Additionally, you can consult Shepard's Acts and Cases by Popular Name.

Electronic: Check the United States Code web site (http://uscode.house.gov)
3. The subject of the law.
Print: Consult the appropriate Index volume in the United States Code, United States Code Annotated or United States Code Service.

Electronic: Check the United States Code web site (http://uscode.house.gov)

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Last Updated: 02/28/2014