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Basic Legal Research

Key Federal Statutes Related to Agencies

  • Administrative Procedure, Generally, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551-559, 701 - 706 (2006) and other relevant sections
    • Public right to participate in rulemaking
    • Often referred to as Administrative Procedure Act (recodified and placed in various sections relating to administrative materials, as noted above)
  • Freedom of Information Act (section within administrative procedure materials), 5 U.S.C. § 552 (2006).
    • Rules/procedures and other agency materials must be made publicly available
  • Sunshine Act/Open Meetings Act (section within administrative procedure materials), 5 U.S.C. § 552b (2006).
  • Federal Register Act, recodified at 44 U.S.C. §§ 1501-1511
    • Requires publication of rules and proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register
  • Enabling statutes (per agency)
    • Statutes enacted to create, and give authority to, an agency

Code of Federal Regulations

Code of Federal Regulations volumesThe Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) is the place in which all codified rules and regulations promulgated by agencies are located. Proposed and final regulations initially appear in the Federal Register. Once adopted, the rules and regulations are codified and published in the C.F.R.

How the C.F.R. is organized:

  • The C.F.R. is divided into 50 titles representing broad subject areas.
    • Each title is updated once each calendar year on a staggered basis (titles 1-16 revised as of January 1, titles 17-27 revised as of April 1, titles 28-41  revised as of July 1, titles 42-50 revised as of October 1).
    • In print, titles may consist of one or more physical volumes.
  • Each title is divided into chapters which usually bear the name of the issuing agency.
  • Each chapter is further subdivided into parts that cover specific regulatory areas.
    • Large parts may be subdivided into subparts.
  • All parts are organized in sections. Most citations to the C.F.R. refer to material at the section level.

Example of a CFR citation

Finding relevant material in the C.F.R.:

  • The C.F.R. in print has an index volume. The index is not very detailed but usually gets the researcher to the correct range of rules and regulations. At the beginning of each part in the C.F.R. there is a complete list of sections, which allows the researcher to scan for relevant rules and regulations.
     
  • Full-text online searching of the C.F.R. can be challenging. Often the language used in rules and regulations is very technical. Relevant sections can be missed without a very precise search. Best practice is to use the index and/or scan the sections at the beginning of a part to identify relevant information.

Accessing the C.F.R in print & online:

Print: KF 70 A3, South Wing (current titles only, superceded titles in storage)

Online:

  • GPO's Federal Digital System (FDSys), https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/browse/collectionCfr.action?collectionCode=CFR
    • Coverage: 1997-present (some material from 1996)
    • Format: PDF, text, HTML
    • Access features: Search & browse
    • Other features: same access features as the print version, e.g., List of Sections Affected (LSA)
  • HeinOnline
    • Coverage: 1938-present
    • Format: PDF
    • Access features: Searchable
  • Lexis Advance:
    • Coverage: 1981-present (has a "current" file and a separate file containing all C.F.R.s from 1981-present)
    • Format: text only (no PDF)
    • Access features: Searchable - can use segments and other Lexis search features
    • Other features: Can Shepardize
  • Westlaw:
    • Coverage: 1984-present (has a "current" file and a separate file containing all C.F.R.s from 1984-present)
    • Format: text only (no PDF)
    • Access features: Searchable - can use segments and other Westlaw search features
    • Other features: Can KeyCite
  • Bloomberg Law:
    • Coverage: Current only
    • Format: PDF
    • Access features: Searchable
    • Other features: BCite is not available

The Federal Register

Federal Register coverThe Federal Register is published daily Monday through Friday except federal holidays. It acts as a "newspaper" of the federal agencies and can be scanned daily to keep abreast of agency activity.

In addition to including the text of proposed and final rules and regulations, the Federal Register provides notice of agency actions, meetings, final dates for comments on proposed rules, and other activities of the federal agencies.

Like the C.F.R., the Federal Register is available in a number of places and formats

Print: KF 70 A2, South Wing (2016-current, 1936-2015 in storage)

Online:

  • GPO's Federal Digital System (FDSys)
    • Coverage:
    • Format:
    • Access features:
  • https://www.federalregister.gov/
    • Coverage:
    • Format:
    • Access features:
  • HeinOnline:
    • Coverage:
    • Format: PDF
    • Access features:
  • Lexis Advance:
    • Coverage: July 1, 1980-present
    • Format: text only (no PDF) [check this]
    • Access features: Full-text searchable
  • Westlaw:
    • Coverage: 1936-present but not all full-text searchable (see Access features)
    • Format: text only (no PDF) for 1981-present. PDF for 1936-1980 if document title or citation is known in file FR-OLD
    • Access features: full text searchable 1981-present (file FR). In file FR-ALL, only summaries are searchable 1936-1980, then full text searchable 1981-present. 1936-1980 if document title or citation is known in file FR-OLD.
  • Bloomberg Law:
    • Coverage: 1937-present
    • Format: text only
    • Access features: full-text searchable

 

 

Updating Federal Administrative Regulations

The update process will be the same whether you are using print or online versions of the titles affected.

1. Locate the regulation of interest in the most recent edition of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).

Remember that each title is updated once each calendar year on a staggered basis (titles 1-16 revised as of January 1, titles 17-27 revised as of April 1, titles 28-41  revised as of July 1, titles 42-50 revised as of October 1).

Cover of LSA issue2. Look at the Code of Federal Regulations LSA (List of CFR Sections Affected) for your section.

  • In print: The LSA volumes are filed at the end of the C.F.R. (call number KF 70 .A3, South Wing). Pamphlets are generally issued monthly. Each pamphlet cumulates changes for up to 12 months from the revision date of each C.F.R. title.
  • Online: Look at the online version of the LSA on the FDSys website. You can then browse the monthly issues of the LSA in PDF or text.
  • Refer back to the revision date of the C.F.R. title containing the section you are researching.
    • If the revision date of the title of the C.F.R. you used is less than one year out-of-date, use only the most recent issue of the LSA (make sure to check the coverage statement on the title page of the LSA to make sure there are no gaps in coverage). 
    • If the revision date of the title of the C.F.R. you used is more than one year out-of-date, you may need to use two issues of the LSA: the annual issue for that title AND the most recent issue.
       
  • If the LSA indicates your regulation has been updated, go to the "Table of Federal Register Issue Pages and Dates" located in the back of the LSA pamphlet in print and at the end of each online issue. Look up the page number reference to determine which issue of the Federal Register contains the revisions/updates.

3. Go to the Federal Register and look up the issue and page number(s) to find the text of the revisions/updates.

  • See The Federal Register box on this page for accessing the Federal Register in print and online. 

Federal Agency Decisions

Many federal agencies have adjudicative bodies. Depending on the agency, written decisions may be published. Agency decisions are often available at the agency website and may also be available on Lexis Advance and Westlaw.

Federal agencies are very good at providing a significant amount of useful information on their websites. If you are working on an issue involving a federal agency, be sure to locate its website and explore the procedural information, law, regulations, and other documents provided.

Finding Federal Agency Decisions:

  • Individual agency websites: See our Libguide on Websites: President & Administration for a list of federal agencies and links to their websites.
  • Lexis Advance:
    • Federal Agency Decisions, Combined: Coverage varies by agency. Use the Source Information icon to see agencies included
    • Individual Agencies: Look under Federal Administrative Materials to locate relevant material
  • Westlaw:
    • Federal Administrative Materials, All (FDADMIN-ALL). Coverage varies, use Scope Note to see agencies included
    • Individual Agencies: Look under the Federal Administrative Decisions folder to locate relevant agencies
  • Bloomberg Law:
    • Coverage varies; use Scope Note to see agencies included
    • Individual Agencies: Look under U.S. Government Departments and Agencies to locate specific agencies

 

Related Topics

Administrative Law & Regulations

Websites: President & Administration

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