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Legal Research: An Overview: Statutes

Introductory Considerations

Statutes are the laws passed by the legislative branch of government and signed into law by the chief executive (president (for federal statutes) or governor (for state statutes)).  Statutes that are currently in force are published in statutory codes, which are organized by subject.  There are codes for federal statutes and different codes for each state.  The relevant code is a good starting point for any research project involving an issue governed by statute.

The following pages will help you to understand:

For more information on statutory code research, please see the Law Library's Finding Federal Statutes Guide and Finding California Statutes Guide.

Legislative History Research

A legislative history of a statute is the sequence of steps or path taken to arrive at the final version of the law.  The term is also used to refer to the document reflecting that history.  Sometimes it can be useful to try to ascertain what the legislature intended in authoring a bill or the purpose and meaning of specific legislative language.

For more information on conducting legislative history research, see the Law Library's guide for Federal Legislative History and for California Legislative History.