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Legal Research Resources for USD Students (Non-Law): Statutes & Legislative History

This guide is intended for academic research in legal resources by University of South Dakota graduate and undergraduate students from colleges and schools other than the School of Law. The information in this guide is not intended as legal advice.

United States Capitol

Photo courtesy of Photo by Chance Agrelia.

Introduction to Statutory Law

Statutes are the laws created by Congress or a state legislature and signed by the president or a governor. Laws are first published as individual "slip laws." At the end of a legislative session, the slip laws for that session are compiled in chronological order and published as "session laws."  When studying federal or state statutes, most researchers use a publication called a "code," in which laws are organized by subject. Codes do not include repealed, superseded or expired laws.

Researchers prefer to use "annotated" codes. Annotated codes provide citations to cases, attorney general opinions, law review and journal articles, administrative regulations, rules or decisions, and other resources related to the provisions. LexisNexis Academic Universe, a USD database, contains annotated codes.

Introduction to Legislative History

The "legislative history" of a statute generally means the documents created during the legislative process. These documents include the bill as introduced and any later versions, transcripts or recordings of committee hearings, committee reports, legislative floor debates, and conference reports. A researcher may examine these documents to understand the legislators' intent in enacting a statute.

Legal "Bluebook" Citation Style for Statutes

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