Legal Research Class Notes 8/28/03


Not all states are alike!


There are two “quick references” in the Bluebook.  One is for legal memoranda, one is for law review notes.  Only a small portion of the book is dedicated to memoranda.


For this assignment, you should cite to the annotated code, but if you already cited to the official code, that’s okay.


More on statutes and legislative history


You can find state Constitutions in their codified statutes.


All states have two basic forms of statutes: session laws and codes.


All states have some form of annotated code, and all codes are available in multiple formats: paper, Lexis or Westlaw, or on the states’ web sites.  The states’ web sites don’t have annotated versions.


To update, use pocket parts and annual supplements.  If you’re updating electronically, use session laws.  For example, you can search the Ohio General Assembly website by keyword or by ORC provision.  When a bill passes in session laws, you can find out where in the Code it’s going to appear.


Federal statutes


The U.S. Constitution can be found in the U.S. Code and Annotated Codes as well as in the state codes, Lexis and Westlaw, and on the web.


Be wary of what you find on the web.  Anyone can post any government document, but there’s nothing that says they can’t change it around.


Session Laws


The official source is United States Statutes at Large.


An unofficial source from West is U.S. Code, Congressional & Administrative News, or USCCAN.  It updates West’s USCA.  In USCCAN, you can read the new statute along with a committee report so you can learn more about the intent and meaning of the statute.


U.S. Code


This is the official, unannotated text, published every six years.  The current edition was published in 2000.  The Code is divided into 50 Titles.  It’s not useful for current research because it’s too slow and doesn’t have annotations.


Annotated Codes


West puts out United States Code Annotated (USCA), and Lexis puts out United States Code Service (USCS).  These are unofficial.


One difference between the USCA and the USCS is that the USCA uses the “key numbering” system.


USCA gets updated with annual pocket parts, interim Supplements and USCCAN Supplements (session laws).




You can use Lexis and Westlaw to search for a citation.  These have online annotations.  You can also look through secondary sources like articles, treatises, encyclopedia entries, and looseleaf services.


The traditional way to do statutory research


1.     Go to the index of the annotated code

2.     Read the statute and review its annotations

3.     Update the text and annotations (i.e. pocket parts and legislative service)

4.     Read and update the relevant cases


The snazzy new way to do statutory research


1.     Do a text search for a word or phrase or citation

2.     Read the text and check the date of the latest amendment and review its annotations

3.     Update the statute via session laws

4.     Read and update any relevant cases


Legislative history


You can interpret statutes by reading documents generated during the legislative process.  The idea is to find out what the legislators were intending to do with the law.  You can study committee reports, hearings, and floor debates.


However, this is not a universally accepted method of statutory interpretation.  If you bring this to a partner, opposing counsel, or judge, they might not think this is all that important.  If the legislators wanted something in the law, why didn’t they put it in the law?


Legislative history can also be ambiguous.


Four types of legislative history


1.     Least authoritative – bills, which can be helpful in determining intent.  Changes in language, addition or deletion of particular provisions.

2.     Hearings – testimony of experts or interested parties with specific knowledge.  They can also contain transcripts, charts and reports.

3.     Floor debates – what legislators said about legislation.

4.     Most authoritative – committee reports – why did a committee recommend a bill?  Includes analysis by section, and dissenting views.


You can find committee reports on USCCAN.


C-SPAN has influenced the Congressional Record, you can’t go back and change things except for basic grammatical errors and the like.


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