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Federal Statutory Law Research- Manual DittakaviRao Associate Director Duquesne University Center for Legal Information
Statutory Research Statutes as a Primary Authority of Law Statutes are the laws made by the Congress/State Legislatures, the representative bodies of the people Statutes are binding on the people and the courts Levels of Statutes Federal Statutes State Statutes Municipal Ordinances made by municipal legislative bodies Generally federal statutes preempts state statutes and state statutes preempts local ordinances
The Relationship Between Statutes and Case Law Statutes create new areas of law not covered in case law Some statutes codify, clarify or supplement case law Some statutes overturn the case law Statutes usually take precedence over case law that conflicts with statutory provisions.
Contd… The constitution grants the legislative branch broad powers to create legal rules to govern society. The legislative’s exclusive authority to enact statutes is balanced by the court’s authority to apply those statutes and other laws, to assess the constitutionality of the statutes, and to make case law
Statutory Law-Federal Sources Bills (Senate and House) Congressional Record (Floor debates) (Daily publication) Slip Law/Public Law (Before 1957 public laws are known as Chapters) (Will have a Congressional session and sequential number e.g. 111-1 and a name known as popular name.) Statutes At Large (session laws – Chronologically arranged at the end of the session); U.S.C.C.A.N. (U.S.Code Congressional Administrative News) United States Code (U.S.C.) (official code in 50 Titles/Topics) (1926) (General and permanent laws are codified) Annotated Codes (Provides additional information including Case Law) United States Code Annotated (U.S.C.A.) (West) United States Code Service (U.S.C.S.) (Lexis)
Statutes At Large Citation Public Law Number Name of the Act United States Code Citation
Session Laws of the Congress Congressional Session Public Laws Included In the Volume
United States Code (U.S.C.) (Official) Titles of United States Code – 50 Titles (Some Titles are positive law and some only primafacie of evidence) (Recent addition - Title 51(National and Commercial Space Programs) The relationship between Statutes at Large and U.S.C. – Laws are numerically (at the end of Congressional session) published in Statutes at Large and those permanent and general laws are organized by topic in U.S.C.) The functions of U.S.C. and why not to use it to do federal statutory research - (Publication and updates are slow and do not contain case law – Un-annotated) Updated with a monthly bound volumes during the Congressional session
Positive Law of Evidence Positive law codification is the process of preparing and enacting a restatement of existing law. The restatement conforms to the policy, intent, and purpose of Congress in the original enactments, but the organizational structure of the law is improved, obsolete provisions are eliminated, and technical errors are corrected. The restatement is enacted as a positive law title Currently only 24 of 50 titles are positive law, the rest are prima facie evidence of law.
OFFICIAL FEDERAL CODE (U.S.C.) (50 TITLES) New set (50 titles) is published once in six years. Current edition is 2006. Monthly updates are published in between.
Notice that not all 50 titles are positive law. Only titles with * mark are positive law.
Notice public law number, statutes at large citation and section number
Annotated Statutes Two annotated codes are available – United States Code Annotated (U.S.C.A.) by West and United Code Service (U.S.C.S.) by LexisNexis. Annotations include: Court cases; A.G. opinions; Adm. Agency decisions; C.F.R. references; Secondary sources such as law reviews, ALR annotations; Treatises; Key Number digest topics; and Electronic resources.
Provides Case Law & Other Secondary References UNITED STATES CODE ANNOTATED (U.S.C.A.) (PUBLISHED BY WEST)
Provides Case Law & Other Secondary References UNITED STATES CODE SERVICE (U.S.C.S.) (PUBLISHED BY LEXIS)
Public Law Number and Statutes at Large Citation
Pocket Part Check Pocket Parts for Updates of statutes and new cases
Research Federal Statutes through U.S.C.A. and U.S.C.S. Researching the Codes General Index Title Index (at the end of last section within each title/topic) Title Outline (may not be detailed) Popular Name Table (alphabetical list of acts) Tables volumes (conversion-Public law >Statutes At Large>U.S.C.)
Research Federal Statutes – Contd… The unique features of U.S.C.A. and U.S.C.S. and why you should use both sources to do federal statutory research - (U.S.C.A. provides more case references and U.S.C.S. provides more administrative decisions and statutory sources. Both provides references to secondary sources generally more to their own publications.) Index Approach Use the general index and/or title index to locate the appropriate title and section of the U.S.C.A. or U.S.C.S.
Contd… Read the text of relevant statutory provisions Read the ‘notes of decisions’ (cases) interpreting the provisions Read other commentary sources relating to the provisions
Contd… Popular Name Approach If the short title or the name of the statute is known, use the Table of Popular Names published either with the last volume of the general index or the Tables’ volume to identify the U.S.C. titles and sections of the statutes. U.S.C.A. and U.S.C.S. publishes a separate volume for popular names. Title Outline Approach (Beginning of each title/topic volume has a sort of contents page – May not be very detailed.)
Popular Name Table Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
INCLUDES FEDERAL AND ALL 50 STATES ACTS ALPHABETICALLY & CASES CITED BY NAME OF THE ACT
Update Federal Statutes Check annual pocket parts; notice the coverage of the laws by the pocket parts (may or may not be any changes to statutes but new cases if any are given) Check U.S.C.A. advance pamphlets. Notice the coverage of laws in each issue. Make sure that the coverage continues the laws covered by the pocket parts. Check U.S.C.C.A.N. pamphlets; U.S.C.S. advance sheets. Notice the coverage of laws for each issue. Read the ‘Current Awareness Commentary’. Check related session law (Public Law) if any.
Contd… Use the ‘Table of Code Sections Added, Amended, Repealed, or Otherwise Affected’ in each issue to check the status of the statutes being updated. Shepardize the statutes in the ‘Shepard’s Federal Statute Citations’ books.
Uniform Laws & Model Acts To bring the uniformity among the laws of popular legal areas American Bar Association started the project in 1889. By 1912 every state appointed uniform law commissioners to the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. Drafting committees work on approved subject of law (probate, partnership, UCC etc.) Discussed section by section in two conference meetings and approved by members of 20 jurisdictions and officially adopted as uniform acts. Uniform commercial code and model penal code are popular ones. Individual states have to adopt them through their legislatures. Thomson West publishes a multi-volume set of Uniform Laws Annotated providing cases from federal and state courts. Currently, there are more than 200 uniform laws.
Legislative History - Federal Legislative materials are secondary authority. They are persuasive authority helping the legal researchers and the court to ascertain the legislative intent of a statute. In applying a statute, a court is limited to determining what the legislature intended the words of the statute to mean and whether the legislature was within its constitutional authority in enacting that legislation; a court may not rewrite a statute or create new one. Legislative history helps one to understand a vague or ambiguous statute. Legislative history materials serve as indicators of legislative intent.
Legislative History…Contd. Limitations of Legislative Materials as Authority Some courts do not view arguments based on legislative history materials credible because of massive collections of materials that constitute the legislative materials. The legislature may not have had any intent as to your situation The law may need to be interpreted in response to changing societal needs. Different types of legislative history materials may have different weight of importance. E.g. house or senate reports that accompany the bills are more important than the remarks made in the congressional floor debates or the statements added to the Congressional Records. None of the materials making up a legislative history truly embodies the intent of the entire legislature – except the text of the bill as passed. Documents to be consulted
Documents Needed to Conduct Legislative History Research Bills (House/Senate) Hearings Committee Reports (House/Senate) – Most important document for L.H. (Committee reports will have a Congressional session and sequential number e.g. 101-1. Before 1969 there was no Congressional session number only a sequential number. Committee Prints (prepared for committee members) Floor Debates (Use Congressional Record) Presidential Signing Documents It is good to know how the bills are enacted into laws.
Sources for Legislative History Published Acts (At the end of public law, find list of legislative history documents) Compiled Legislative Histories (Published by Govt./Commercial/Libraries) Congressional Record (Bills and floor debates) U.S.C.C.A.N. (United States Code Congressional Administrative News by West provides committee reports) – Table 4 provides all necessary info. For L.H. – Date of Statute approved; Statutes At Large citation; Committee report number; Names of committees; Congressional Record dates etc. Volume 88 or lower number of Statutes At Large has a table “Guide to legislative history of bills enacted into public law.” Now every public law has the same information at the end of the law. CIS (Congressional Information Service) Index to Legislative Histories.) (L.H. for statutes enacted after 1970). More information available in microform format.