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Legal Research: Federal: Laws (Statutes)

Help with common legal research questions.

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Regulations vs. Laws

Many aspects of public life are controlled by regulations rather than by laws.

Regulations are made by government agencies, rather than legislative bodies. The government may give agencies or departments the authority to make regulations in order to carry out the intent of a particular law.

Find a Law (Statute or Code Section): LexisNexis Academic

By subject: Do a keyword search in the box at the top of the page, using words describing your subject.

If you know the code citation: Type the citation into the search box at the top of the screen. For example:

15 USCS sec 1271

15 USCA 1271

Westlaw is forgiving about the form of the citation; anything relatively close will usually produce the desired result.

If you know the popular name: Do a keyword search for the popular name of the law or act. Alternatively, use the LII Popular Name Index or Google the popular name, in hopes of finding a source that will give the code, PL, or Stat. citation.

If you know only the Public Laws (PL) citation: 

  1. Move into the Legislative History section of WestlawNext, and choose U.S. Public Laws - Historical.
  2. Type the PL number, for example: P.L. 102-166 (Note: first number must be 93 or higher)
  3. The Public Law text will state which code sections it amends. 

Find a Law (Statute or Code Section): In Print

We no longer keep print copies of the United States Code Annotated (USCA). The San Bernardino County Law Library in downtown San Bernardino may still have hard copies.