A complete legislative history contains all the documents produced by the leg process. You won’t always need all the documents. Sometimes you can make your argument with just a committee report.
If there is ambiguity in the text of the statute, the legal researcher will first look to cases for judicial interpretation. If none is found, then look at legislative history. Although there are judges that find leg hist persuasive, in recent years, more and more are not. Why was the statute enacted? And, how did Congress want the statute to be interpreted? Some judges believe, like Scalia, the only legislative guide to interpreting statute should be the text itself.
Briefly mention the documents in order of their appearance in the course of a bill becoming law and what they are.
In determining legislative intent, the greatest weight is given to the plain meaning of the statute.
The bill number will appear on the first page of the public law. You will see either see either S. # or H.R.#.
Public laws are published in the Statutes At Large (official publication) Public laws are also published in an unofficial publication - USCCAN
Federal Legislative History, Pt 1
FEDERAL LEGISLATIVE HISTORYPart 1 Margaret Clark, Reference Librarian FSU Law Research Center Fall 2008
Federal Legislative History - 1 What is legislative history? Why compile a legislative history? Documents that make up leg history What tools can I use to search for a compiled legislative history? HeinOnline Westlaw LexisNexis USCCAN (U.S. Code and Congressional
What is legislative history?A collection of related documentsproduced by Congress during theenactment, or rejection, of a proposedpublic law.
Why compile legislative history? To clarify questions about a statute if there are no cases interpreting it. To understand the meaning of specific language or terminology To determine legislative intent at the time statute was enacted
Legislative History Documents Bills 106 H.R. 275 110 S. 30 Many versions: engrossed enrolled Committee hearings Hearing on H.R. 5388 before the Comm. on the Judiciary, 109th Cong. 51-76 (2006) Committee reports H.Rpt.106-55 Committee prints H.R. Doc No.43 (Title) Committee documents H. Doc. 105-22 Floor debates 132 Cong. Rec. 32408; CR H2675 Conference report H. R. Conf. Rep. 105-37 Slip law/session law Pub. L. 106-386
Not all legislative documents are created equal!1. Statute text2. Conference report’s joint explanatory statement3. Committee reports4. Remarks, debates5. Bill text in various versions6. Witness statements in committee hearings7. Prints, reports, signing statements, news articles Excerpted from Richard McKinney’s Federal Legislative History Research, http://www.llsdc.org/sourcebook/docs/fed-leg-hist.pdf, last updated May 2006
HearingsReportsDebates Popular Name U.S.Code Citation
VICTIMS of TRAFFICKING and VIOLENCEPROTECTION ACT OF 2000 STEP 1: Identify public law number STEP 2: Identify bill number STEP 3: Check for compiled legislative history STEP 4: Find legislative history documents STEP 5: Read and analyze documents
Step 1: Identify public law numberVICTIMS of TRAFFICKING and VIOLENCE PROTECTION ACT OF 2000 Use Popular Name table from any of these sources: Cornell Popular Name Table web site (free) USCA / USCS Popular Name Table22 USC § 7102 Use history notes at the end of the USC section
STEP 1: Identify public law number Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000
USCA-POP Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000
STEP 1: Identify public law number 22 USC § 7102
HeinOnlineU.S. Federal Legislative History Title Collection
USCCANU.S. Code Congressional and Administrative News Two sections Laws - Public laws in chronological order Legislative History List of legislative history documents Reprints selected documents, e.g. committee reports Helpful tables offer checklist Print begins with 1941 Westlaw begins with 1973
Civil Rights Act of 1957 Step 1 : Identify public law number. Where? Popular Name Table (Internet – Cornell’s Popular Name Table) Answer is: P.L. 85-315 Step 2: Identify its bill number. Skip for the moment Step 3: Check for Compiled Sources. Where? HeinOnline - Bill number? Answer is: 85 H.R. 6127 What source points to actual documents? Answer is: Book called “Civil Rights,” edited by B. Schwartz, 1970
Thank you!Coming up on Thursday…FEDERAL LEGISLATIVE HISTORY – part 2 Lexis’ CIS Legislative History database Westlaw’s Graphical Statutes Thomas GPO Access