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Law Library

Federal Law: Legislative

Overview of Federal legislative, judicial, executive, secondary, and constitutional legal resources.

Researching Federal Legislation

The Constitution is the primary source of federal law. Over time, much of the common law has become codified in statutes, which have primacy over precedent set by court cases.

Legislation is issued in 3 formats. First as slip laws (cited by public law number), then as session laws arranged chronologically in the Statutes at Large, and finally by subject in the U.S. Code.

When researching legislative history (more on sources of legislative history), it is worth noting that committee reports are more persuasive than Congressional debates.

United States Code

All current legislation is arranged by subject in the United States Code.

Legislative Materials

Many free websites and subscription databases provide legislative materials including legislative history, Congressional materials, bills, statutes, and the U.S. Code.

Legislative History

  • Analysis of a statute from idea to legislation
  • Track bills & congressional reports of attempts to fix a problem