Legal Research Class Notes 8/29/03

Last time…


We talked about legislative history.


Today, we’ll get into regulations.


House & Senate Committee Reports


·        These are the most important documents you can get your hands on to research legislative intent.

·        They’re written by Congressional committees on specific pieces of legislation.

·        So, if you’re short on time, look at these reports first!


Sources of Committee Reports


·        USCCAN – This contains all session laws from 1940 to the present, and will have at least one committee report for all US statutes passed since 1940.  They are the best source of quick research on legislative intent.

·        Lexis & Westlaw

·        Congressional Universe – sponsored by the Congressional Information Service (CIS) – it contains a comprehensive indexing & publication of Congressional reports & hearings, and is available in paper, microfiche, or electronic versions.


Other Useful Stuff


·        Congressional record – but be careful, because this is not always a transcript of just what was said on the floor.

·        Committee prints – these report on various issues, though not specific legislation.




·        Session laws are released in chronological order, while codes are in order by topic.

·        The USCA has helpful references to cases and stuff, but on the other hand, the U.S. Code is the official, authoritative version.

·        P.L. 107-60 means the 60th law passed by the 107th Congress.

·        You can find the authoritative meaning of a word in the Definitions sections of a statute.

·        A parallel citation is a reference to a regional reporter that gets you to the same case as in a state reporter.


Federal regulations[1]


These are rules issued by federal agencies under the authority granted by a statute.  They add “flesh” to a statute; they give it real meaning.


What is a rule?  It is a statement designed to effect policy.


Example – McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Bill


When the bill passes, it goes through a gauntlet of federal administrative agencies like the Federal Election Commission.  These agencies interpret and implement the statutes.  The FEC decided to exempt issue ads, which ticked off both McCain and Feingold and a whole bunch of other people.  The Supreme Court is expected to look at this law because it brings up First Amendment issues.


It’s a lot easier to change a regulation than it is to change a law.


Regulations are sort of a new form of law


·        Tariffs came about in the 18th century.

·        The Interstate Commerce Commission was around from 1887 to 1995.

·        The Federal Trade Commission started in 1914.

·        The New Deal caused an explosion in the number of federal agencies and in the number of regulations.


Other developments


Publication of the regulations started in the mid-1930s with the Code of Federal Regulations and the Federal Register.


The expansion of federal regulation goes in fits and starts, but suffice to say that there are many, many, many regulations.


The 105th Congress passed the Paperwork Reduction Act, which in turn led to GPO Access which is online.


How to ditch a regulation[2]


·        The regulation is amended or repealed.

·        The enabling statute is changed.

·        A court declares the rule invalid.


Some other forms of administrative actions


·        Decisions of administrative courts/panels

·        Policy statements

·        Interpretive or procedural rules

·        Guidelines & handbooks

·        Memoranda & letters

·        Attorney General’s or General Counsel’s opinions


Form of publication


·        Final regulations are found in codes (subject arrangement) or in registers (chronological arrangement).

·        Proposed regulations are also published in the register of the federal government and some states.


Sequence of publication


·        Proposed regulations are published in the Federal Register so you have a chance to voice your opinion on them.

·        Notice of hearings is published in the Federal Register.

·        The final regulations are published in the Federal Register and Code of Federal Regulations, both of which are official sources.


Code of Federal Regulations


·        Codified

·        50 titles (corresponding roughly to the titles in the U.S. Code)

·        Arranged by subject then agency

·        Final regulations only

·        Published annually (rolling)

·        Not annotated


What’s a rolling publication?


All 50 titles are not published all at once, but rather, one quarter of the titles are republished every three months.


Federal Register


·        Chronological compilation

·        Proposed and final regulations

·        Plus notices of hearings, Presidential Proclamations, Executive Orders

·        Published 5 times a week year-round

·        Very large: more than 83,000 pages in the year 2000

·        Not annotated


When to use the Federal Register


·        When the regulations are too new for the CFR

·        To see proposed regulations

·        To see regulations without amendments

·        To update regulations in CFR


Both the Federal Register and Code of Federal Regulations are available on the Internet.  The Federal Register runs a little slow online.


Formats for CFR and FR


·        Paper

·        Lexis & Westlaw

·        WWW

·        Microform


Back to Class Notes

[1] -or- How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the FDA

[2] “Once you create something you’re never going to get rid of it.”