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This guide provides a basic introduction to U.S. legal research and to primary legal resources in the United States. Comparative and foreign research guides are also included.

Using Statutes

Statutes are laws written and passed by legislative bodies which have been signed by the executive branch (president or governor).  Laws published soon after enactment are called a slip law.   Slip laws for a legislative session are published in a set of session laws.  Session laws contain all statutes passed in that session.  All statutes and session laws are primary sources.

Codes are statutes that are arranged by topic, regardless of when passed.  Codes should be used for most types of statutory research.  Because the codes in electronic databases are usually up to date, it is usually not necessary to consult session laws. 

        Federal and State Session Laws (electronic):

Federal Statutes

Federal Session Laws: enacted federal statues are called public laws. They are identified by a public law number (citation form: P.L. 107-10).  Since 1789, federal public laws are published in chronological order in session laws called the Statutes at Large (citation form: 888 Stat. 496).

      Statutes at Large (electronic):


Federal Code: Federal statutes are codified into the official United States Code (U.S.C.). Each subject area in the code is called a “title” and a statute is identified by a title and section:  8 U.S.C. § 1701.  USCA (annotated) is available via LexisNexis Academic under tab named "U.S. Legal."

HeinOnline is followed by other free versions of the Code.

State Statutes

State statutes for all 50 states and the District are available online via LexisNexis Academic.  They are found under the US Law button.  The codes are indexed by subject.   The USCA (annotated) version of the Code is also found in LexisNexis Academic.  Print copies of all state codes are found in GU Law Center Library.

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