Skip to Main Content

Legal Research: An Overview: Statutory Codes

Code Sections Do Not Vary From Publication To Publication

There are a variety of code publications, including government publications and codes in Westlaw, Lexis, Bloomberg, and other online sources. The code section number and statutory language will not vary based on which service/publisher you use. Accordingly, you can pull up a code section in any code publication, and you should see the same statutory language. However, as discussed below, the annotations for each code section will vary from publication to publication.

Annotated v. Unannotated Codes

Codes can be annotated or unannotated. An unannotated code includes the text of the statutes and history notes identifying the origin and amendments for each statute.  

Annotated codes have this information and also contain citations to cases interpreting the statute, regulations pertaining to the statute, and secondary sources discussing the statute. Because of the terrific depth of these citations, annotated codes are a wonderful research resource.  

While the statutory language should not vary from publication to publication, the code annotations (i.e. case references, regulations, and secondary source citations) will vary based on the service/publisher. Each publisher uses its own editor and algorithm to generate these references, and there will be some differences in what is picked up in each publication. Moreover, for citations to relevant treatises, each publisher tends to highlight those treatises that they publish and not those of their direct competitors.

For more information on working with code annotations, see the Annotated Codes & Regulations portion of the Caselaw Searching section of this research guide.

Important Note For Users of Print Codes

If you use the code in print, you must remember to look at the pocket part in the back of the volume or any available supplemental volume for information that updates the main volumes.

Federal and California Codes

The code for federal statutes is called the United States Code ("U.S.C."). The U.S Code is organized into 54 broad topics, called titles. Federal statutes are identified by their title and section number. For example, 29 U.S.C. § 2612 is the code section for a federal statute that requires that employees be given leave under certain circumstances pursuant to the Family Medical Leave Act.  The "29" stands for title 29, which are the labor statutes, and "2612" is the section within that title.

There are three major publications for the U.S. Code:

  • U.S. Code (U.S.C.) is published by the federal government and is the official version of the code. The Bluebook requires that this version be cited, if available. The U.S.C. is not annotated. It is published approximately every six years and is supplemented annually.  Accordingly, it is not particularly useful as a research tool. It is recommended that you use a different code publication for research purposes and look to the U.S.C. when it is time to craft properly formatted Bluebook citations for the relevant code sections. The U.S.C. is available in print in the Law Library at KF62 2018 and online from the Government Publishing Office and HeinOnline.

  • United States Code Annotated (U.S.C.A.) is an annotated version of the code, published by West. In addition to the U.S. Code, it also provides annotations (i.e citations to relevant cases, regulations, and secondary sources) to the Constitution, the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Federal Rules of Evidence, and other court rules. U.S.C.A. is available in print in the Law Library at KF62 1927 .W47 and online in Westlaw.

  • United States Code Service (U.S.C.S.) is an annotated version of the code, published by Lexis. U.S.C.S. is available in print in the Law Library at KF62 1972 .U5 and online in Lexis.

See the Law Library's Finding Federal Statutes Guide for more information.

California statutes are organized into topical codes. The statutes are identified by code topic and section number. For example, Cal. Gov't Code § 12945.2 is the code section for the California statute that requires that employees be given leave under certain circumstances under the California Family Rights Act.  "Gov't" is the California Government Code, and "12945.2" is the section within that code.

The topical codes are typically combined into a single code publication. Unlike the federal code, there is no official publication for the California codes. As discussed in more detail below, both West and Lexis publish their own version of the California codes, and the Bluebook allows citation to either. Both the West and Lexis versions are annotated.

The two major publications for the California codes are:

  • West's Annotated California Codes, published by West, includes annotations to the topical codes, and also to the California Constitution, California Rules of Court, and other California court and commission rules. West's Annotated California Codes is available in print in the Law Library at  KFC30.5 .W4 and online in Westlaw.

  • Deering's California Codes, Annotated, published by Lexis, is available in print in the Law Library at KFC30.5 .D4 Z59 and online in Lexis.

Unannotated versions of the California Codes are also available on the internet, including from the California Legislative Information web site.

See the Law Library's Finding California Statutes Guide for more information.