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Legal Research: Statutory Law - Federal

This guide is designed to help you with your legal systems research.

Statutory Law

Statutory law refers to issues or actions dealing with federal or state laws. To locate laws consult the United States Statutes at Large. to review a

Federal Statutes - Print

When a federal law, legislation approved by Congress and signed into law by the President is enacted, it is compiled into the United States Statutes at Large, a collection of statutes (acts) passed by the United States Congress, in chronological order.

A citation in the United States Statutes at Large can be citied using two different formats, the Public Law number or referencing the statute. Below are the two different citations.

Using a Public Law number: P.L. 88-352      Interpreted as:  Public Law 88th Congress, 352th law passed in this Congress

Using the statute information: 78 Stat. 241   Interpreted as: Volume 78 Statute page 241.

United States Code - Electronic

The United State Code (also known as the U. S. Code) is a consolidation and codification by subject matter of the general and permanent laws of the United States. The United States Code consists of 50 titles. Each title deals with a broad area of the law such as Internal Revenue (Title 10), Public Health and Welfare (Title 42), or Defense (Title 50). A single law may affect several sections of the U. S. code, so it is best to consult United States Code classification tables. There is also a popular name table.

Positive Law Titles vs. Non-Positive Law Titles

The United States Cod titles have positive and non-positive law titles. A positive law title of the Code is itself a Federal statute. A non-positive law title of the Code is an editorial compilation of Federal statutes. This is an example taken from the U. S. House of Representatives, Office of the Law Revision Counsel.

Title 10, Armed Forces, is a positive law title because the title itself has been enacted by Congress. By contrast, Title 42, The Public Health and Welfare, is a non-positive law title. Title 42 is comprised of many individually enacted Federal statutes––such as the Public Health Service Act and the Social Security Act––that have been editorially compiled and organized into the title, but the title itself has not been enacted.   

The distinction is legally significant. Non-positive law titles are prima facie evidence of the law, but positive law titles constitute legal evidence of the law in all Federal and State courts.

Online Congressional Resources

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