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Law

Provides descriptive information for finding, understanding, and citing court decisions, statutes, and judicial opinions.

How to Find Federal Laws Using Citations

There are many sources for finding federal and state statutes, but there are some common ways statutes are cited in texts. This portion of the guide will help you understand the meaning of the citations when you see them and offer some places to find them.

Federal Statutes:

The United States Code (USC) is the official government publication for the United States code. It is arranged by subject into 50 "titles." New editions are published every six years, with cumulative supplements printed at the end of each session of Congress in between each edition. Sources for searching the United States Code online are the Goverment Printing Office (GPO) FDsys "Federal Digital System" page and the Cornell University Law School Legal Information Institute. The Cornell University Law School Legal Information Institute also provides a list of the United States Code by the popular names that the laws are known by (for example, the Civil Rights Act) as well as a guide to understanding their list.

The United States Code Annotated (USCA) and the United States Code Service (USCS) are privately published versions of the code, which include cases from the courts interpreting the laws and other additions that are not included in the official code.

Citations will look like this:

42 U.S.C. 13981 (2006)

Title: 42

Code (source)  abbreviation: U.S.C.  

Section number:  13981

Year of Code: 2006   

 

You might also see citations to the Public Laws or Statutes at Large. These are chronological collections of the laws, gathered together and published at the end of each Congressional Session.

Cites will look like this: Pub. L. No. 105-30, 111 Stat. 248 (1997). Public Law  (also abbreviated P.L.) 105-30 was the 30th law passed by the 105th Congress. It was published in volume 111 of the United States Statutes at Large, at page 248.

Thomas (a product of the Library of Congress) and GPO FDsys are good places to look online for Public Laws.


For bills that have been introduced as legislation, but are not yet laws, Thomas and GPO FDsys are good sources.

Citations for bills will look like this:
Equitable Health Care Act, S. 671,  103d Cong., 1st Sess. (1993).

Title of bill: Equitable Health Care Act

Bill or resolution #: S. 671

Number of Congress: 103d Cong

Congressional Session: 1st Sess.

Year: 1993

 

The process of interpreting a statute, also known as "statutory construction," usually involves researching the Legislative History of the statute, which refers to the process of tracking the statute from proposal as a bill to signing of the legislation into law by the President and examining changes made by amendments, committee hearings, debates, etc. The Library of Congress has a detailed guide to performing Legislative History research for federal law.

 

Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe also provides access to Federal Statutes by citation or keyword searching. At the Lexis-Nexis Academic home page, click on the Search by Content Type drop-down in the upper right hand corner of the page. From there, click on the link for Federal Statutes and Regulations. Lexis-Nexis offers a detailed help section with help on topics ranging from browsing a source to constructing a search.

The long-term viability of a law is determined by whether it passes muster constitutionally.  The GPO provides an electronic version of the 1992 & 2002 editions of The Constitution of the United States of America:  Analysis and Interpretation, an analysis of cases decided by the Supreme Court of the United States.

All citations of the U.S. Constitution begin with U.S. Const., followed by the article, amendment, section, and/or clause numbers as relevant. The terms article, amendment, section, and clause are always abbreviated art., amend., §, and cl., respectively. Preamble is abbreviated pmbl.  Article and amendment numbers are given in Roman numerals (I, II, III); section and clause numbers are given in Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3).
from:  Bluebook Rule 11, which covers federal and state constitutions, per APA Style Blog 6/3/2010.

How to find Illinois State laws using citations

The Illinois General Assembly's web site provides access to the Illinois Constitution, the Illinois Compiled Statutes (ILCS), recently passed legislation that has not yet been added to the Compiled Statutes through the Public Acts, and proposed legislation (Bills and Resolutions), among other resources.

 

The web page allows you to browse the Illinois Compiled Statutes by chapter, or search by keyword or Act name.

You might see citations to the Illinois Compiled Statutes that look like the examples below:

810            Ill. Comp. Stat.                § 5/1-101                (2000)

chapter      abbreviated source      section              year volume was published

810              ILCS                               5/1-101                (2000)

 

Privately published, unofficial versions of the code, called the Illinois Compiled Statutes Annotated, are published by West and LexisNexis. These volumes include summaries of judicial opinions which interpret the code.

 

Note that some bills that were recently passed into law may not yet be included in the ILCS database, but they can be found on that site as Public Acts soon after they become law. The ILCS site also provides the text of bills that were passed into law during the course of previous General Assembies.  The site also has a useful guide for understanding the organization of the Illinois Compiled Statutes. In general, the important thing to remember is that once you find the section of the ILCS you are looking for, you should search again for that section in the more recent Public Acts to see if it has recently been amended. For more in depth information on research the Legislative History of a state law, the Illinois General Assembly has a guide .

Citations to public laws of Illinois look like this:

Public Act 096-0001

This indicates the first law passed by the 96th Illinois General Assembly.

 

The process of interpreting a statute, also known as "statutory construction," usually involves researching the Legislative History of the statute, which refers to the process of tracking the statute from proposal as a bill to signing of the legislation into law by the Governor and examining changes made by amendments, committee hearings, debates, etc. The Illinois General Assembly's Researching Legislative History provides an in depth guide to finding these documents.

Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe also provides access Illinois State Statutes by citation or keyword searching.  At the Lexis-Nexis Academic home page, click on the US Legal tab in the upper left hand corner of the page.  From there, click on the linnk for State Statutes, Codes & Regulations from the list of links on the left side of the page.  Lexis-Nexis offers a detailed help section here with help on topics ranging from browsing a source to constructing a search.

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