Types of Law: Links to Published Law by Type

There are many different ways a "law" can be written/created and have legal standing. To search for and access the text of laws, it can be very helpful to have some information about what type of law it is. Each type of law is published in a different source, depending on the level, branch of government, and stage of adoption. See below for links to publications containing laws arranged by type of law

 

Level of Government: In the United States, laws can be enacted by federal, state or local authorities.

Branch of Government: Each branch of government produces a different "type" of law:

Legislative Branch : Statutory Law

Executive Branch : Regulatory and Administrative Law

Judicial Branch : Case Law

Stage of Adoption: Laws are published in different sources at select points during adoption.

proposed : not yet adopted, but officially being considered

initial adoption : text of law as written

codified : arranged with all other laws by subject


Publications Containing Laws
Listed by Type of Law and Branch of Government

 

Federal

State

Basic Law

U.S. Constitution (info)

California Constitution (info)

Statutory Law

   

proposed

Bills in the U.S. Congress   (info)

Bills in the California Legislature (info)

as written when passed

Public Laws (info)

Statutes at Large (info)

California Statutes
(Chaptered Bills)

codified

United States Code (info)

California Codes (info)

Regulatory and Administrative Law

 

proposed rules, notification of new rules

Federal Register (info)

California Regulatory Notice Register (info)

codified

Code of Federal Regulations (info)

Code of California Regulations (info)

Case Law

   

Most Cases
  (Federal & State)

LexisNexis: Federal & State Cases (info)

Highest Court

U.S. Supreme Court opinions (info)

California Supreme Court opinions (info)

Appellate Courts

U.S. Appellate Court opinions (info)

California Apellate Court opinions (info)

Local Courts

U.S. District/Special Court opinions (info)

Superior court opinions (info)


Constitutional Law

Federal

United States Constitution

Description: Fundamental or basic law of the United States.

Process Notes: Supersedes all other law in the United States. Individual federal and state laws cannot conflict with the U.S. Constitution, and judges interpret it when discussing the constitutionality of a law.

Text online: FindLaw

Text online: United States Government Printing Office (includes official annotations)

State

California Constitution

Description: Fundamental or basic law of California.

Process Notes: Individual California laws cannot conflict with the state constitution, and judges interpret it when discussing the constitutionality of a law.

Text online: State of California


Statutory Law

Federal Statutes

Bills in the U.S. Congress (proposed)

Typical Citation: H.R. # or S.# (Examples: H.R. 810, S. 3)

Description: Laws proposed by a member of the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate but not yet passed.

Process Notes: If passed by both houses and not vetoed by the U.S. President (or the veto is over-ridden), a bill becomes Public Law (aka a Federal or U.S. Statute).

Text online: Thomas (from the Library of Congress, covers 101st Congress [1989] - present)

Text online: U.S. Government Printing Office (103rd Congress [1993] - present)

 

Public Laws of the United States (individual laws as passed)

Typical Citation: PL ###-## (Example: PL 101-35)

Description: Text of a law as written when it was passed by Congress.

Process Notes: Also known as slip laws, public laws get bound into volumes called United States Statutes at Large.

Text online: U.S. Government Printing Office (1995 - present only)

United States Statutes at Large (individual laws bound together in order of passage)

Typical Citation: ## Stat ### (Example: 79 Stat 453)

Description: Text of laws as written when they were passed by Congress, bound together sequentially into a printed book.

Process Notes: When enough public laws are passed by Congress, they are bound together in a printed volume, which is issued as part of the series called Statutes at Large. These volumes include the text of the laws exactly as written when passed by Congress, and the laws are bound sequentially (i.e. in the order they were passed). When each law eventually gets codified (i.e. broken apart so the various subjects covered in a single law can be grouped with other laws on the same topic), it is published in the United States Code.

Text online: Library of Congress (1795 - 1875 only)

Text: U.S. Government Printing Office (2004 only)

United States Code (all laws in force arranged by subject)

Typical Citation: ## USC §####   (Example: 29 USC §3291   - official version published by the U.S. Government)

Other Citation styles: ## USCS §####   &   ## USCA §####   (private, annotated versions published by Lexis and West - the citations should be interchangable with official government version)

Description: All federal laws (statutes) currently in force arranged by subject.

Process Notes: Individual laws passed by Congress may deal with multiple subjects, and they may change previously passed laws. In order to help administrators, judges, lawyers, etc., identify all of the current law related on a specific issue, when a law is passed, it is codified. That is, the text of the law is divided into individual parts, each which covers a discrete subject. Each part is then put together with all other laws currently in force on that specific topic.

Text online: FindLaw (best if you have a citation)

Text online: LexisNexis (good for sophisticated word searching)

Text online: U.S. House of Representatives

Text online: U.S. Government Printing Office

Text online: Cornell University Law School

State Statutes

Bills proposed in the California Legislature

Typical Citation: AB # or SB # (Examples: AB 1433 or SB 735)

Description: Laws proposed by a member of the California State Assemly or the California State Senate but not yet passed.

Process Notes: If passed by both houses and not vetoed by the Governor of California (or the veto is over-ridden), a bill becomes California Law (aka California Statute).

Text online: California Legislature (1993 - present)

California Statutes or Chaptered Bills (laws as written when passed by the legislature)

Typical Citation: Most commonly still cited by the bill number (e.g. SB 629, AB 35), bills that actually become law each year are also given a Chapter n umber (e.g. Stats 1981 ch 782).

Description: Text of laws as written when passed by the Legislature.

Process Notes: After a bill has passed through both houses of the Legislature and has been signed by the Governor (or becomes law without the Governor's signature), is is "chaptered" by the Secretary of State. A Chaptered Bill (aka California Statute) is the text of a law exactly as written when passed by the legislature. When each law eventually gets codified (i.e. broken apart so the various subjects covered in a single law can be grouped with other laws on the same topic), it is published in one of the California codes.

Text online: State of California (1993 - present)

California Codes (all California statutes in force arranged by subject)

Typical Citation: ### (name of code) §###   (Example: 34 Educ. Code §3423 )

Citation Note: There are 29 different codes, each representing a broad area. (e.g. Health and Safety, Food and Agriculture, Public Utilities, etc.)

Other Citation styles: ### CA (name of code) §###   (Publications and citations outside of California often add CA in front of the code name to inform the reader the citation pertains to California law)

Description: Text of all California laws (statutes) currently in force, arranged by subject.

Process Notes: When a statute is passed into law, it is broken into parts, each part dealing with a different discrete subject. Each part is then put together with all other statutes currently in force on that specific topic. This is known as codifying the law, and California codes arrange all California statutory law by subject.

Text online: State of California

Text online: FindLaw

Text online: LexisNexis (search interface for Deering's California Codes Annotated)

Text online: LexisNexis (browse table of contents for Deering's California Codes Annotated)

Text online: LexisNexis and choose - Legal (from the red menu bar near the top), Federal & State Codes (from the right-hand menu), State Codes (from the pull-down menu below the search boxes), Show, Section: State, Terms: California

Text online: LexisNexis and choose - Sources (from the top menu bar), Legislation, Statutes & Codes (category list) , Statutes/Statutory Codes (yellow folder), CA - Deering's California Codes Annotated - Browse


Regulatory/Administrative Law

Federal

Federal Register (proposed regulations, regulations as written when passed)

Typical Citation: ## FR #####   (Example: 34 FR 10391)

Description: The text of newly proposed as well as newly adopted federal regulations (aka rules).

Process Notes: The text of new regulations proposed by federal agencies are published in the Federal Register, allowing individuals to comment on the effects of the proposed regulation. When the agency decides on the final form of the regulation, it is published as a "final rule" in the Federal Register. Final rules are later arranged by subject in the Code of Federal Regulations.

Text online: U.S. Government Printing Office (volume 59 [1994] - present)

Text online: LexisNexis

Text online: Regulations.gov (only proposed regulations currently open for comment)

Code of Federal Regulations (all federal regulations in force arranged by subject)

Typical Citation: ### CFR §###   (Example: 34 CFR §3423 )

Description: Text of all federal regulations in force at the time of printing arranged by subject.

Process Notes: Final rules published in the Federal Register are broken into individual parts, each dealing with a different discrete subject. Each part is then put to gether with all other regulations currently in force on that specific topic. This is known as codifying the regulations, and the Code of Federal Regulations arranges all federal regulations by subject.

Text online: U.S. Government Printing Office (official version, updated annually)

Text online: FindLaw (includes forms to search by citation)

Text online: eCFR (updated daily by the government, but not official)

Text online: LexisNexis (search interface)

Text online: LexisNexis (browse contents and individual titles)

State

California Regulatory Notice Register (proposed regulations, notice of new regulations)

Typical Citation: #### Cal. Reg. Notice Register ####   (Example: 2003 Cal. Reg. Notice Register 685)

Description: Text of newly proposed regulations and announcements of the adoption of new or revised regulations.

Process Notes: The text of new regulations proposed by state agencies are published in the Notice Register, allowing individuals to comment on the effects of the proposed regulation. When an agency adopts a new regulation, the new rule is written in the California Code of Regulations and noted in the Notice Register.

Text online: California Office of Administrative Law (2002 - present)

 

California Code of Regulations (all federal regulations in force arranged by subject)

Typical Citation: ## CCR §###   (Example: 3 CCR §432 )

Description: Text of state regulations currently in force arranged by subject.

Process Notes: State agencies writing new regulations insert them into the appropriate spot in the California Code of Regulations, which arranges all state regulations currently in force by subject.

Text online: State of California


Case Law

LexisNexis: Federal & State Cases

The Federal & State Cases main page searches all cases (federal and state) available in LexisNexis Academic. This should include all U.S. Supreme Court decisions, almost all relevant U.S. Appellate and District Court decisions, and most of the decisions made by the highest court and the appellate courts in all fifty states. info

Federal Case Law

U.S. District Court Opinions

Typical Citation: plaintif v. respondent, ## F. Supp. #####   (Example: Azalea Meats v. Muscat, 246 F. Supp. 780 )

Other Citations: There are multiple series, F. Supp., F. Supp. 2d., F. Supp. 3d., etc.

Citation Notes: The citation sometimes includes an abbreviation for the specific court district and the year, e.g. (S.D. Fla. 1965).

Description: The text of rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Process Notes: Courts resolve disputes when interpretations of laws differ, or one law appears to conflict with another or with the constitution. As a general rule, state laws cannot violate federal laws, and no U.S. law can violate the U.S. Constitution.

Text online: Available via LexisNexis: Federal & State Cases

Text online: LexisNexis (all available case law from 1789 - present)

District court websites: FindLaw (selected opinions available at some sites)

 

U.S. Appellate Court Opinions

Typical Citation: ## F. #####   (Example: 22 F. 354)

Other Citations: There are multiple series: F., F. 2d., F 3d., etc.

Description: The text of rulings by each U.S. Court of Appeals.

Process Notes: Each of the regional "Court Circuits" in the United States has a court of appeals. The rulings of each of these appellate courts is legally binding only in that circuit. There are also additional appellate courts for some special areas (e.g. Armed Forces, Taxes, Patents, etc.).

Text online: Available via LexisNexis: Federal & State Cases

Text online: LexisNexis (all available appellate court caselaw)

Text online: FindLaw (1995 - present, choose the appropriate appellate court)

 

U.S. Supreme Court Opinions

Typical Citation: ## US #####   (Example: 546 U.S. 189)

Other Citation style: ## L Ed. #####   (Example: 168 L. Ed. 2d 508)

Other Citation style: ## Sup. Ct. #####   (Example: 127 S. Ct. 2738 )

Description: The text of rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Process Notes: As the highest court in the nation, the Supreme Court's interpretation of law is final and cannot be changed by another court. The Supreme Court's interpretation of the U.S. Constitution (the highest law in the land) can only be changed by amending the constitution (or be a later Supreme Court re-interpreting the issue).

Text online: Available via LexisNexis: Federal & State Cases

Text online: LexisNexis (Lawyer's Edition, 1790 - present)

Text online: FindLaw (150 US [1983] - present)

Text online: U.S. Supreme Court (502 US [1991] - present)

State Case Law

California Superior (local) Court Opinions

Typical Citation: plaintif v. respondent   (Example: People v. Lewis and Oliver)

Description: The text of rulings by California Superior courts (e.g. local trial courts in California).

Text: Not generally available. Usually most relevant to case law if the case is appealed and the appellate courts make a ruling affecting interpretation of law.

 

California Appellate Court Opinions

Official Citation Sytle: ## Cal.App.4th #####   (Example: 39 Cal.App.4th 970)

Alternate Citational Style: ## Cal. Rptr. 3d #####   (Example: 47 Cal. Rptr. 3d 467)

Alternate Citation style: ## P.3d #####   (Example: 140 P.3d 775)

Citation Notes: Each of these citation styles add new numbers for new series: Cal Rprtr., Cal Rptr. 2d, Cal Rptr. 3d., P., P.2d, P3d., Cal.App., Cal.App.2d, Cal.App.3d, Cal.App.4th, etc.

Description: The text of rulings by each California Court of Appeals.

Text Online: FindLaw (excellent official citation finder, 1934 - present)

Text Online: LexisNexis (1905 - present)

 

California Supreme Court Opinions

Official Citation Style: ## Cal. 4th #####   (Example: 39 Cal. 4th 970)

Alternate Citation Style: ## Cal. Rptr. 3d #####   (Example: 47 Cal. Rptr. 3d 467)

Alternate Citation Style: ## P.3d #####   (Example: 140 P.3d 775)

Citation Notes: Each of these citation styles add new numbers for new series: Cal Rprtr., Cal Rptr. 2d, Cal Rptr. 3d., P., P.2d, P3d., Cal., Cal.2d, Cal.3d, Cal.4th, etc.

Description: The text of rulings by the California Supreme Court.

Process Notes: As the highest court in the state, the California Supreme court is usually the final interpreter of state law (although if there are issues of federal law involved, a case may be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court).

Text Online: FindLaw (excellent official citation finder, 1934 - present)

Text Online: LexisNexis (1850 - present)