Legal Resources

Statutory vs Case Law

The following descriptions and examples are taken from federal laws but are generally applicable to the states. Statutory and case law are equally important in the legal environment.

As you begin your research, it may be beneficial to examine the print editions of the Statutues at Large, United States Code, and United States Reports. The print versions make the structure of these documents - with their numerous subsections, footnotes, and marginal notes - much more obvious and understandable. The call numbers are given in the Reference section below.

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Laws vs Regulations

Once Congress passes a law, agencies must write regulations to put the law into effect. Proposed regulations must be published in the Federal Register and people are given a period of time to comment. When regulations are finalized, the completed version is again published in the Federal Register. Codified regulations are handled in much the same way as codified laws. The federal compilation is known as the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). The Pennsylvania equivalent is the Pennsylvania Code. The CFR is completely modified from year to year. Like the U.S. Code, the CFR is arranged by title. The subject matter covered in the USC and CFR titles usually are the same. For example, Title 26 in both publications deal with everyone's favorite topic - taxes. The University Libraries no longer acquire the Code of Federal Regulations and the Federal Register in print. Researchers must check both publications to ensure they have the latest information. This is made much easier in the electronic realm because databases such as LexisNexis Congressional and LexisNexis Academic incorporate new regulations into the CFR within a few weeks.

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Reference Sources

This list contains general legal publications. The University Libraries has other subject specific legal materials that can be identified by searching CAMEO.


Table 1: Federal Resources - Laws, Court Decisions, and Regulations

Table 2: State Resources - Laws, Court Decisions, and Regulations

The terminology used by states to designate laws and regulations varies. For example, "Code" in one state may designate statutory laws and "Code" in another state may refer to regulations.