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Statutes: Introduction

Introduction

What are statutes?

Statutes are created by the U.S. congress and by state legislatures and attempt to lay out the ground rules of "the law".

Besides federal and state statutes, there are local laws usually known as "ordinances".

Determining Terms and Concepts

If you aren't certain the words or 'terms of art' that describe your topic you may need to consult some background sources such as a legal encyclopedia or dictionary.

Statutory Research Tip

An annotated code is your best one-stop shopping for statutory research. Not only does it arrange the statutes by subject, but it also contains the added value of case citations.

Missouri Statutes:  Vernon's Annotated Missouri Statutes (VAMS) contains the wording of the statutes PLUS references to case law, relevant secondary sources and more.  But remember for citation purposes you will use the official state publication of the statutes:  Revised Statutes of Missouri (RSMO).

Federal Statutes:  United States Code Annotated (USCA) or United States Code Service (USCS) contain the wording of the statutes PLUS references to case law, relevant secondary sources, and more.  But remember for citation purposes you will use the official federal publication of the code:  United States Code (USC).

Determine Jurisdiction

To locate statutes by citation or by topic, you first want to find the appropriate resource for your jurisdiction.  Are you looking for a federal or state statute?

States have the power to create law in many areas, including issues dealing with family, personal injury, property, businesses, and estates and trusts.  

Many areas of the law are covered by both federal and state statutes, including employment, consumer protection, and more. 

To add to the complexity there are areas that only federal statutes cover, including bankruptcy, copyright, social security and more. 

 

Determining Jurisdiction - Tutorial

For a more detailed overview of jurisdiction view the tutorial below.  If you have trouble viewing the tutorial see https://tegr.it/y/110zf.

Publication

Publication of Federal Statutes

Federal laws are published in three formats:  slip law, session laws and codes.

1.  Slip Laws

Public and private laws are also known as slip laws. A slip law is an official publication of the law and is competent evidence admissible in all state and Federal courts and tribunals of the United States. Public laws affect society as a whole, while private laws affect an individual, family, or small group.

After the President signs a bill into law, it is assigned a law number, legal statutory citation (public laws only), and prepared for publication as a slip law. Private laws receive their legal statutory citations when they are published in the United States Statutes at Large.

Location:  Slip laws are available at the MU Law Library in Bank 2 on the first floor.  They are also available online.

2.  U.S. Statutes at Large

The Statutes at Large are session laws - the permanent collection of all laws and resolutions enacted during each session of Congress.  It contains the slips laws in chronological order of publication. 

Location:  The U.S. Statutes at Large is available at the MU Law Library in Bank 2 on the first floor.  They are also available online.

3.  Code:  A code organizes law by subject and is the most useful format for research.  It divides the law by broad subjects into 50 titles.  Statutory codes appear in official and unofficial versions.  The federal codes are available at the MU Law Libary in Bank 2 on the first floor.

United States Code
The United States Code is the official version of the federal statutes and is used by lawyers for citation purposes. The U.S. Code does not include regulations issued by executive branch agencies, decisions of the Federal courts, treaties, or laws enacted by State or local governments.

United States Code Annotated
Unofficial version of the United States Code.  Enhanced with extensive annotations following the code section provide citations to court cases, federal regulations, law review articles, and legislative history documents.  More current than the official version. Updated with annual supplements called "pocket parts" and periodic supplemental pamphlets.  Available on Westlaw.

United States Code Service
Unofficial version of the United States Code.  Enhanced with extensive annotations following the code section provide citations to court cases, federal regulations, law review articles, and legislative history documents.  More current than the official version. Updated with annual supplements called "pocket parts" and periodic supplemental pamphlets.  Available on Lexis. 

Publication of Missouri Statutes

Like federal laws, state laws are available in three basic formats: slip laws, session laws, and codes.
 
1.  Slip Laws:  Bills Truly Agreed To and Finally Passed are signed in open session by the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tem of the Senate. Those bills are available online.  The Governor has fifteen days to act on a bill if it is sent during the legislative session; and forty-five days if the legislature has adjourned or has recessed for a thirty day period. Legislative actions by the Governor are available online

2.  Session Laws:  Laws of Missouri  Laws enacted in the Missouri legislature during each biennial session are referred to as "acts" and are numbered chronologically as they are enacted.  At the end of each session, they are published in a hard bound set entitled Laws of Missouri and are known as the Missouri session laws.  Location:  Laws of Missouri is available in print at the MU Law Library in MO-REF.

3.  Codes:
Missouri Revised Statutes (RSMO) Published by Missouri Committee on Legislative Research.  The official codification of all the laws that are in effect at the end of each legislative session.  It is printed at the end of each biennial session of the legislature, and is available in both hard cover and paperback.  The statutes are arranged by subject and numbered decimally.  The subject index is at the end of the last volume of the set.  It is now "supplemental," updated with pocket parts.  Location:  RSMO is available in print at the MU Law Library in the Reserve Room and MO-REF.  It is also available online.

Vernon's Annotated Missouri Statutes (VAMS)
Published by Thompson West, the set contains the statutes of MIssouri with additional notes of decisions of the state and federal courts interpreting the laws, the Constitution and court rules of Missouri.  It is supplemented by annual pocket parts, pamphlets and Vernon's Missouri Legislative Service.  Location:  VAMS is available at the MU Law Library in the Reserve Room and MO-REF.  It is also available on Westlaw.

Additional:
Index, House and Senate Bills, and Joint Resolutions
Published by Missouri Committee on Legislative Research and Office of Administration.  This indexes bills by subject, bill number, and sponsor for each piece of proposed legislation in the Missouri General Assembly.  Each volume covers one session.  Location:  This index is available online.

 

How a bill becomes a law

Citations

Citation Manuals

Consult these legal citation manuals for more detailed information:

Missouri Statutory Code Citation Formats

Cite to the official publication (Missouri Revised Statues) when possible.

(1)  Cited material appears only in the main volume:
            Missouri Revised Statutes:  Mo. Rev. Stat. § xxx.xxx (Year).

(2)  Cited material appears only in a supplement:
            Mo. Rev. Stat. § xxx.xxx (Supp. Year).

(3) Cited material appears in both the main volume and a supplement.
            Mo. Rev. Stat. § xxx.xxx (Year & Supp. Year).

(4)   When it is not yet available in RSMO main volumes or its cumulative supplement and your cited material appears:
(a) only in Vernon’s Annotated Missouri Statutes.
(b) only in Vernon's Annotated Missouri Statutes main volume & cum. annual pocket part.
(c) only in Vernon's Annotated Missouri Statutes cumulative annual pocket part.

            (a) Bluebook format:  Mo. Ann. Stat.  § xxx.xxx  (West Year).
            (b) Bluebook format:  Mo. Ann. Stat.  § xxx.xxx  (West Year & Supp. Year).
            (c) Bluebook format:  Mo. Ann. Stat.  § xxx.xxx  (West Supp. Year).

            (a) ALWD format:  Mo. Rev. Stat. Ann.  § xxx.xxx  (West Year).
            (b) ALWD format:  Mo. Rev. Stat. Ann.  § xxx.xxx  (West Year & Supp. Year).
            (c) ALWD format:  Mo. Rev. Stat. Ann.  § xxx.xxx  (West Supp. Year).

Federal Statutory Code Citation Formats

Cite to the official publication (United States Code) when possible.
Examples from ALWD Citation Manual:

(1)  Cited material appears only in the main volume:
         18 U.S.C. § 1965 (2006).
         19 U.S.C.A. § 2606 (West 2009).
         12 U.S.C.S.  § 84(a)(2) (Lexis 2008).

(2)  Cited material appears only in a supplement:
         18 U.S.C. § 1965 (Supp. 2010).
         5 U.S.C.A. § 552 (West Supp. 2008).
         15 U.S.C.S.  § 1681t (Lexis Supp. 2004).

(3)  Cited material appears in both the main volume and a supplement:
         18 U.S.C. § 1965 (2006 & Supp. 2010).
         15 U.S.C.A. § 1681n(d) (West 1998 & Supp. 2008).
         42 U.S.C.S.  § 2000e (Lexis 2000 & Supp. 2006).

Citation Tips

Statutes may be cited as primary authority in a variety of ways depending on the context in which they are used. You might want to cite to an entire piece of legislation. Or you might want to just cite to a particular section of legislation. 

If possible, cite current statutes to the current official code or its supplement. These will be in print form. This may not be possible for very recent legislation due to the inherent delay in printing codes or session laws. For example: Missouri Revised Statutes are published every 10 years with a cumulative supplement every year. However, since most recent Missouri legislation becomes effective at the end of August (90 days after the close of the legislative session at the end of May), there is at least a six month gap between a new statutes effective date and publication. Supplements to the United States Code can be two years behind!

If you cannot cite to an official code, in order of preference, cite to an unofficial code or its supplement, official session laws, unofficial session laws, a commercial database, a looseleaf service or internet source. For the United States Code, there is a new federal government web site that provides .pdf copies of the code along with other useful information.

Finding

Finding a Statute if you have a citation

If you have a citation, you can use it to locate the statute in the library.   Federal and state statutes are cited using the same basic pattern, with a few differences.  The elements of a federal statute are:

The elements of an Missouri statute are:

In our library, statutes can be found in the following locations:

  • Federal codes [U.S.C./U.S.C.A./U.S.C.S.]: 1st floor, Bank 1
  • Missouri Revised Statutes: Reserve Room and low level shelving on 1st floor
  • Vernon's Annotated Missouri Statutes: Reserve Room and low level shelving on 1st floor
  • State statutes (except Missouri): 1st floor, Bank 1

Finding a Statute without a citation: Popular Name Table

If you do not have a citation, but know a statute's commonly-used name and its jurisdiction, you can use the Popular Names Table to find a statute.  The Table can usually be found at the end of each set of statutes.  If you are looking for a newer statute, be sure to check the supplements as well.

For example, if you were looking for the Clean Air Act, you could look in the Popular Names Table of the U.S. Code, the U.S.C.A., or the U.S.C.S.  All would look similar to this entry in the U.S. Code's Popular Names Table:

Now you know you can find the statute in Title 42, Section 7401 of the U.S. Code.

Note: if you are looking for newer legislation, it would be better to look at the Popular Names Table in a commercially-published set (i.e., U.S.C.A. or U.S.C.S., as opposed to U.S.C.).  The official U.S. Code takes years to publish, and is therefore much more out-of-date than the the other sets (which are updated frequently with pocket parts.)

Always make sure that you have the most current information by checking the pocket parts and cumulative supplements of your volumes. 

Finding a Statute without a citation: Indexes

If you are looking for a statute by topic, you should start with the Indexes for your jurisdiction's statutes.  Each set of statutes includes an Index at the end of the set. 

For example, if you wanted to find out if there was any federal legislation governing the conservation of polar bears, you could look up "Polar Bears" in the index.  The example at the right is from the U.S.C.S. General Index.

After each subtopic, the title and section where the statute can be found in the U.S. Code is listed.  Using this information, you can find the section in the main volumes of the U.S. Code.  

Note: It is usually better to use the indexes of commercially-published, annotated statute sets (i.e., U.S.C.A. or U.S.C.S., as opposed to the U.S.C.) because they are more extensively indexed, and also more up-to-date than the official versions.

Always make sure that you have the most current information by checking the pocket parts and cumulative supplements of your volumes. 

About This Page

Many thanks IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, Downtown Campus Library whose guide inspired this page and provided much of the information included here.

Updating

Updating Missouri Print Statutes

Disclaimer: though systems are in place to update print materials, we advise updating online for most current information. 

Revised Statutes of the State of Missouri:  This multivolume set is reprinted only periodically.  In between those printings consult the multivolume softbound cumulative supplements for updates.  However, these cumulative supplements are only published every one to two years.

Vernon's Annotated Missouri Statutes:  Check the cumulative annual pocket part in the back of each bound volume for updates.

Vernon's Missouri Legislative Service:  Check advanced session law pamphlets and interim annotation pamphlets for more recent updates.

The Missouri Governor's webpage will contain information on most recent legislative actions.

 

Updating Federal Print Statutes

Disclaimer: though systems are in place to update print materials we advise updating online for most current information.

United States Code:  A new edition of the USC is issued approximately every six years.  Bound cumulative supplements are published annually but typically are out of date by the time they are published.

United States Code AnnotatedUSCA is supplemented by annual pocket parts as well as the Statutory Supplement.

United States Code ServiceUSCS is supplemented by annual pocket parts, quarterly Cumulative Later Case and Statutory Service supplements, and monthly advance pamphlets.

Checking currency online

Before relying on a statute as authority, you must verify that it was not amended or repealed.

If you are on Westlaw or Lexis check the currency note at the beginning or end of the statute you are researching.

In Westlaw use the KeyCite feature and in Lexis use the Shepard's feature to identify potential issues that might affect your statute.

If you do not have access to Westlaw or Lexis: 
Public patrons are welcome to update statutes at the MU Law Library using KeyCite on our Westlaw Public database. 

Database Tutorials

Statutory Construction

Statutory Construction - Missouri

Statutory Construction - principles

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