primary sources

Using Statutes

What are statutes?

Statutes are laws enacted by a legislative body. They are binding on persons located within the jurisdictional authority of the legislative body. Statutes are what most people call "laws." While statutes are presumed to be clear as to their meaning, it is usually necessary to consult court decisions to determine how a particular statute is applied within the jurisdiction.

Federal Legislative History

A legislative history is a collection of the documents created by Congress or a state legislature during the process leading up to the enactment of a law. The legislative history provides evidence that members of the legislative body were aware of particular issues and facts, and includes comments and recommendations of committees and individual members of the legislative body.

Finding Cases

How are cases organized?

While not all judicial decisions are published, those that are published are issued chronologically in case reporters by court, court system, or broad subject matter. As a result, cases about totally different topics may appear next to each other in a reporter. Even topical reporters such as the Bankruptcy Reporter or Federal Rules Decisions, which contain cases on a limited area of the law, require a method of finding cases that discuss particular topics or points of law.