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Source Collecting: Collecting Statutes

Collecting Federal Statutes

Federal statutes (laws passed by U.S. Congress) are first published by date in the U.S. Government Publishing Office's (GPO) Statutes at Large (Stat.), then organized by topic in the GPO's official United States Code (U.S.C.), West's unofficial United States Code Annotated (U.S.C.A.), and Lexis' unofficial United States Code Service (U.S.C.S.)

If possible, Bluebook R12.2.1 tells you to collect the official U.S.C. Sometimes, authors also cite to the official Stat., such as when they are discussing the history of a statute's enactment, amendment, or appeal, authorized by R12.2.2. The library has some print copies of the U.S.C. and Stat. and HeinOnline provides complete PDF scans of every edition of the U.S.C. and Stat. ever published:

The GPO publishes a new main edition of the U.S.C. every six years and then updates it with yearly supplements. To make sure you collect the complete current statute, always check both the main edition and the most recent supplement. (See Screencap tab.) 

The official U.S.C. is published slowly and sometimes you may discover that a statute passed in the last year or two has never been published in the U.S.C., even in a supplement. In this case, R12.2.1 tells you to cite Westlaw's unofficial U.S.C.A. or Lexis' unofficial U.S.C.S. Both databases provide the text of their codes but neither provides PDFs or other exact copies so, for source collecting, you will need to access these sources in print. The print U.S.C.A. and U.S.C.S. are updated by supplements on an as-needed basis so, once you have found the volume that contains your statute, check for pamphlets inserted in the back of the volume ("pocket parts") or placed next to the volume to see if your statute was added or amended after the main volume was printed. (See Screencap tab.)

Finally, R12.2.1 explicitly allows you to cite the authenticated version of the U.S.C. that the GPO posts on its old website, GPO FDsys. (The GPO now also posts the authenticated version on its new website, GovInfo.) However, the format and date are different from the print U.S.C. because the authenticated version is completely updated each year, rather than every six years. If your editor or professor is a stickler, it's safer to use the HeinOnline scans of the print U.S.C.

Search for Your Statute in the Most Recent U.S.C.

Input your statute's citation into HeinOnline's U.S.C. citation finder. The results page will link to any volumes of the main edition and supplement that might include your statute:

There's No Main Edition for My Statute!

Because main editions are published every six years, if your statute was passed in the last six years, it may not yet be in the main edition. In that case, check the most recent supplement.

If your statute was passed more than six years ago but there is no result for the most recent main edition, change the edition field of the search form to check the next most recent main edition. Because each main edition is published title by title, starting with Title 1, you may sometimes need to collect different statutes from different main editions. For example, if the 2018 main edition has only been published through Title 9, you would collect any statutes in or before that title (9 U.S.C. or lower) from the 2018 main edition and any statutes in higher titles (10 U.S.C. or higher) from the 2012 main edition and supplements.

Check If Your Statute(s) Are Included in the Most Recent Supplement

After you have retrieved your statute from the main edition, check the most recent supplement in the results list to see if it includes your statute. You only need to check the most recent supplement because supplements are cumulative (i.e. the 2016 supplement contains all of the amendments and new statutes from the 2013, 2014, and 2015 supplements.) 

The supplement page below skips from § 704 to § 794, with no amendments to § 711A. For § 704 and § 794, you would need to collect the supplement. For § 711A you would not.

The volume that contains 18 U.S.C. § 711 includes a "pocket part" supplement, inserted in the back of the volume. Looking up 18 U.S.C. § 711 in the supplement shows that Lexis has added additional annotations (notes recommending cases, secondary sources, and other materials) about 18 U.S.C. § 711 but the text of 18 U.S.C. § 711 itself has not changed. Accordingly, you only need to collect the text of 18 U.S.C. § 711 in the main volume, not the supplement. In contrast, 18 U.S.C. § 713 has been amended so you would need to collect 18 U.S.C. § 713 in both the main volume and supplement.

Collecting California Statutes

California statutes (laws passed by the California legislature) are first published by date in the government published Statutes of California (Cal. Stat.), then organized by topic in Westlaw's unofficial West's Annotated California Codes and Lexis' unofficial Deering's California Codes Annotated.

Bluebook T1.3 tells you to cite either West's or Deering's. Both databases provide the text of their codes but neither provides PDFs or other exact copies of the print so, for source collecting, you will need to access these sources in print (for the current version) or microform (for historical scans of West's). The print California codes are updated by supplements on an as-needed basis so, once you have found the volume that contains your statute, check for pamphlets inserted in the back of the volume ("pocket parts") or placed next to the volume to see if your statute was added or amended after the main volume was printed. (See Screencap tab.)

Sometimes, authors cite to the Cal. Stat., such as when they are discussing the history of a statute's enactment, amendment, or appeal, authorized by R12.2.2. The library owns Cal. Stat. in print and both Hein and the California legislature provide complete PDF scans of the print Cal. Stat:

Finally, the California legislature maintains an authenticated electronic version of the California codes on its website. However, the format and date are different from the print California codes. The authenticated electronic version publishes the text of each individual code section as it is added or amended, while the unofficial print versions publish many code sections in volumes that are updated by yearly supplements and periodically replaced. If your editor or professor is a stickler, it's safer to use the print codes instead.

To collect Cal. Fish & Game Code § 2250, first locate the volume that contains Cal. Fish & Game Code § 2250. Once you've located Cal. Fish & Game Code § 2250 in the main volume, check the back of the volume for a "pocket part" supplement, a soft pamphlet inserted in the back of the volume.

Looking up Cal. Fish & Game Code § 2250 in the supplement shows that the supplement skips from § 2128 to § 2301, with no changes to § 2250. Accordingly, you only need to collect the text of Cal. Fish & Game Code § 2250 in the main volume, not the supplement. Similarly, for § 2120, West has added additional annotations (notes recommending cases, secondary sources, and other materials) about the statute but the text of the statute itself has not changed. § 2120 only needs to be collected from the main volume.

In contrast, § 2301 has been amended, so you would collect it in both the main volume and the supplement. § 2128 has been newly added, so you would not be able to find it in the main volume and would collect it only in the supplement.

Search or Browse to the Exact Section You Would Like to Collect

Click the PDF Option

The PDF Will Be Authenticated

Collecting Statutes for Other States

The library no longer purchases statutes for most other states. To obtain statutes for other states:

  • Check the website for the state legislature to see if they provide an exact copy of the print version or an authenticated or official version, authorized by Bluebook R18.2.
  • Retrieve the Lexis or Westlaw version.
  • Ask your editor to place an interlibrary loan request for the statute.