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Find It: Federal Statutes: Home

Publications

The laws passed by Congress are copiled in a set of books called the United States Code (often abbreviated “U.S.C.”, “USC”, or “U.S. Code”). The USC is organized into over fifty titles and each title deals with a broad subject, like Banks and Banking (Title 12).

Particular statutes are cited by their USC title and section. For example: 42 U.S.C. § 1983 indicates the federal statute found in Title 42 of the USC at Section 1983.

The official version of the USC is published by the Federal Government and known simply as the U.S. Code. The United States Code Annotated (USCA) and United States Codes Service (USCS) are commercial versions of the USC, each of which has more finding tools, cross references to other materials, and which are updated more frequently than the government-published USC. But the Title and Section citations are the same, and the texts of the statutes vary only by how recently each set has been updated.

The library has print copies of the U.S. Code and the USCA (but not the USCS). The U.S. Code and USCA can be found in the reference collections, in ranges 202B-203A.

US statutory material can be found in many places online. The US Code can be found:

  1. http://uscode.house.gov/ - US House of Representatives, Office of the Law Revision Counsel (1994-present)
  2. www.govinfo.gov - US Government Publishing Office (1994-present)
  3. U.S. Code Library on HeinOnline (Loyola community only) (1925-present)

The USCA is available online through student and faculty Westlaw accounts. The USCS can be accessed through student and faculty Lexis accounts. 

Finding Statutes

If you don’t have a citation to the statute that you need, each of the print sets has an index. You can use the index to look up words that describe the subject you are researching and locate relevant Titles and Sections of the USC that deal with that subject.

As an example of using the indexes to the codes, here is an entry from the General Index to the USCA:

The listing of specific subjects related to Foster Care includes Income Tax and a sub-listing for “credits, adoption”. This narrow subject is addressed in Title 42 of the U.S. Code at Section 671.

 

Public Laws and Statutes at Large

A Public Law is a statute in the form as it was passed by Congress (i.e., not as it is organized by subject in the U.S. Code). Public Laws are published in a set of books called  the Statutes at Large. These can be useful because many laws passed by Congress make numerous changes throughout the USC; these allow you to read the law in its original form. 

Public materials can often be found online at Congress.Gov or in compiled legislative histories, such as those found in Legislative Insight and the US Federal Legislative History Library from HeinOnline. Speak to a law librarian for more information on legislative history.

Keep Updated

It is important to make sure to locate any possible changes to the statutes you find. Most volumes of the USCA and USC have a pocket part in the back cover - or a pamphlet next to the volume - that contain recent changes to the laws in that volume. There are also supplements to the entire sets of both the USCA and USC that contain new laws passed by Congress since the pocket parts were published. The USCA is updated with annual hard-bound volumes which supplement that entire set, while the USC is updated with new hard-bound volumes every six years. Researching online is a another great way to ensure you are looking at up-to-date materials. You can also check Congress.Gov to find if there is any pending legislation that would affect the statutes you are researching; you can also set email or RSS alerts.

Bluebook Tips

Citation rules for federal statutes are found in Bluebook Rule 12 and Table 1. The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (Columbia Law Review Ass’n et al. eds., 20th ed. 2015).

Copyright

All original content copyright 2019 Loyola University New Orleans College of Law Library. This guide may be used for educational purposes, as long as proper credit is given. This guide may not be sold. Requests to republish or adapt a guide should be directed to the Library Director. Proper credit includes the statement: Written by, or adapted from, Loyola University New Orleans Law Library.