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Understanding Statutes: Publication and Compilation

Basic Legal Research Concepts

Publication and Compilation

Statutes are published chronologically

1.      Slip laws:  When first enacted, a statute is a slip law that is available as a single, stand-alone statute.

2.      Session laws: As the legislature continues to meet during session, the various slip laws are arranged in chronological order and bound together as session laws. Session laws have no cumulative index, but the individual volumes are indexed separately.

3.      Statutory compilations or codes: Access to all of the current session laws issued by the legislature over various sessions is provided through a statutory compilation variously referred to as a code, a revised code, revised statutes, general statutes, or compiled laws.

Statutory Compilations: Organization

·         The major subject divisions of a statutory compilation are called titles or chapters. For example, title 11 of the United States Code deals generally with bankruptcy.

·         Portions of the text of a single statute as enacted and published as a slip law may appear in different titles or chapters of the statutory compilation. However, the statutory compilation will have the citation to the original session law number and section. This citation is called a statutory authority note.

·         Pocket parts and Interim Pamphlets:  Statutory compilations are generally updated by pocket parts and interim pamphlets. Interim pamphlets may be known variously as legislative service, advance legislative service, advance session law service, or advance code service. Interim legislative pamphlets publish the text of recent legislative enactments throughout the legislative session.

·         State statutory compilations usually contain a volume with the text of both the state constitution and the United States Constitution.

·         Municipal Compilations: A municipal compilation is a subject compilation of the general and permanent municipal ordinances.

·         Uncodified Statutes: Not all public laws are codified.  Only public laws of general and permanent applicability are codified. Uncodified statutes are also referred to as unconsolidated or unclassified laws, but they are still published in the jurisdiction’s session laws although they will not appear in the U.S. Code.

Official and Unofficial Compilations: Compilations published with government oversight and authorizations are official compilations. Unofficial compilations are published without such oversight and authorization, but unofficial compilations are no less reliable.

Official Compilations: An official compilation is not necessarily published by the government, but can be published by a private entity under government supervision. Annotations are added by the publisher’s legal editors, and are therefore not uniform across publishers. Annotations may include judicial interpretations of statutes, interpretations of the statutes by the attorney general, administrative regulations, historical references, cross-references to related statutes, digest topics, encyclopedia topics, ALR annotations, and law review articles.

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