Skip to Main Content

Federal Statutes

This guide aims to provide the user with a general understanding in locating and updating known statutes and in identifying federal statutes by citation, name, or subject.

By Code Cite

Since all three versions of the Code follow the same title and section arrangement, having a citation to any of them allows easy access to other versions.

  1. Lexis: For an immediate viewing of a USCS section, simply enter the citation to the USC section in the search box on the home page, e.g., 42 USC 12101. 
  2. Westlaw: For an immediate viewing of a USCA section, again, simply enter the citation to the USC section, e.g., 42 USC 12101 in the search box on the home page.

By Public Law Cite

Parallel Reference Tables found in the Tables volumes of USC, USCA and USCS are used to convert Public Law numbers and Statutes at Large cites into USC cites. These tables also show the disposition (i.e. repealed, renumbered, etc.) of older Code sections. In addition, tables in Statutes at Large and USCCAN convert bill numbers to Public Law numbers. To convert USC sections to P.L. numbers, see the annotations at the end of the Code section. Westlaw contains one USCA database to assist in this research: USCA-Tables.

By Topic

Many of the sources for federal statutes include detailed subject indexes.

  1. Statutes at Large and USCCAN both contain subject indexes for each legislative session.  These indexes indicate the page on which the text of the legislation can be found.
  2. Codes: USC, USCA and USCS all contain general subject indexes found at the end of each set which provide access to all 50 titles of the Code. In addition, USCA and USCS provide subject indexes after each individual title of the Code specifically geared to that title.
  3. Online Indexes: Lexis, Westlaw and the free U.S. House of Representatives and GovInfo sites are searchable by keyword.  However, sometimes it is more fruitful to search the online indexes or table of contents to the code which are available on Lexis and Westlaw.  Lexis' and Westlaw’s online indexes are often the best place to start since specific subheadings may be hidden under a very general heading making them difficult to find in a print index but easily retrievable online.

By Popular Name

Often legislation becomes known by a particular name rather than by its citation. In addition, newer legislation is often assigned a “short title” by which it becomes known.  When only the name of federal legislation is known, the following sources can provide access:

1. Popular Name Tables can be found at the end of the general indexes to USC, USCA and USCS.  These tables list federal acts alphabetically by their short titles or common names and provide citations to the appropriate title and section of the Code.

The popular names tables for the USC, USCA, and USCS are also available online:

2. Shepard’s Acts and Cases by Popular Name: Federal and State provides references to the common names of both federal and state statutes and cases.  Because of its comprehensive nature, Shepard’s Acts and Cases by Popular Name often lists several citations to a particular name and you must determine which is the appropriate section for your research.

3. USCCAN also provides a popular name table which can be invaluable for locating both recently passed legislation and older statutes by name. Knowing the year or a range of years during which the legislation was passed is necessary to use the USCCAN popular name table.