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Administrative Law: Current Federal Regulations

Accessing Current Federal Regulations

Current federal regulations are published in the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) by the U.S. Government Publishing Office. The C.F.R. is published yearly in soft-cover print volumes and updated continuously on Lexis, Westlaw, and the U.S. Government Publishing Office's eCFR website. 

Generally, the best place to research federal regulations is on Lexis and Westlaw because they provide annotations (notes summarizing major cases and other sources about a regulation) and citators (tools locating sources that cite a regulation).

The C.F.R. can be accessed on Lexis or Westlaw by:

  • Typing in an individual regulation in the format 1 CFR 1.
  • Typing CFR into the main searchbox and selecting the appropriate link from the dropdown.
  • Browsing on Westlaw to Regulations > Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) or on Lexis to Administrative Codes & Regs > Federal.
  • Using the direct links below:

If you do not have access to Lexis or Westlaw, the most reliable source for the most current federal regulations is the free, government-produced, continuously updated eCFR:

Finding Relevant Federal Regulations

If you do not have a citation to a specific regulation, use one of the following strategies to locate relevant regulations:

1. Start your research with a secondary source on your topic. (For example, an employment law secondary source or a tax secondary source). Most secondary sources will cite the relevant federal and California statutes and regulations.

2. If you know the relevant statute, you can check the U.S. Government Publishing Office's free parallel table of authorities and rules. The table allows you to look up a statute and then find the regulations implementing it:

3. If you know the relevant statute, you can also use the annotations or citator to the statute to locate its implementing regulations:

a. On Westlaw, click the Context & Analysis tab and look for a sub-tab labeled Code of Federal Regulations. If there are no regulations under the Context & Analysis tab, click the Citing References tab and then filter to Regulations. It's common for Westlaw to list some state regulations, so make sure to filter Jurisdiction to Federal. 

b. On Lexis, go to the Research References & Practice Aids section and look for a sub-section labeled Code of Federal Regulations. If there are no regulations under the Research References & Practice Aids section, click the Shepardize link in the sidebar and then filter to Other Citing Sources > Regulations. It's common for Lexis to list a large number of regulations, so use the Search Within Results filter to narrow your results to only the regulations most relevant to your issue.

If you do not know the relevant statute, you can:

4. Browse the regulations. The C.F.R. is divided into titles by topic, then into chapters by agency, then into subchapters and parts by topic. 

5. Check the Index. The index lists regulations by topic. It can be accessed by typing CFR index into the main search box on Lexis or Westlaw or by browsing on Westlaw to Regulations > Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) > Code of Federal Regulations Index (in the right sidebar). In print, the index is found at the end of the set of books.

6. Search the regulations.

Often, these strategies will bring you to the right general area of the regulations but not to the specific regulation that you need. Always check the breadcrumb trail and table of contents to look for additional relevant regulations nearby. 

Reading a Federal Regulation

1. Citation: The citation is shown at the top of the regulation and is generally in the format 1 C.F.R. § 1. A few regulations have alternative citations, such as Treas. Reg. § 1-1 for IRS regulations. See the Bluebooking guide for additional details on properly citing federal regulations. 

2. Breadcrumb trail & 3. Table of Contents: Access the table of contents or click any of the links in the breadcrumb trail to see more relevant regulations nearby.

Tools for Finding Cases and Other Sources Interpreting the Regulation

4. Annotations for Cases: Annotations are notes written by the database staff identifying major cases and other sources discussing and applying a regulation. Annotations identifying relevant cases are found at the end of the statute under Case Notes on Lexis and under the Notes of Decision tab on Westlaw.

5. Annotations for Other Sources: Annotations for sources other than cases are found at the end of the statute under Research References & Practice Aids on Lexis and under the Context & Analyis tab on Westlaw. These annotations may identify secondary sources discussing the regulation and other related statutes and regulations.

6. Citators: Citators are tools identifying sources that cite your source. They are more comprehensive and less carefully curated than annotations. Citators can be accessed by clicking the Shepardize link on Lexis or the Citing References tab on Westlaw.

7. Text of regulation

Screencap of federal regulation on Lexis

Screencap of federal regulation on Westlaw