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Cite Checking Guide for Law Reviews & Publication: Statutes & Legislation

Federal Lawmaking

An author may cite to federal legislation at any stage of the federal lawmaking process, from the introduction of a bill through its publication as a statute. The formal legislative process is initiated when a member of Congress, House or Senate, introduces a bill. 

When a bill is introduced, it is assigned a bill number. The first part of the citation will include a reference to the house of origin (H.R. or S.) and the assigned number. Example: H.R. 108 or S. 5.  The bill number stays the same through each legislative stage.

Once a bill is passed and becomes a law (signed by the President), it is assigned a public law number and published as a separate document. For example, Pub. L. No. 102-408 refers to the 408th law enacted by the 102nd session of Congress.

Next, the public laws from a single legislative session are published in chronological order and each is given a numerical citation as a session law.  The official version of the session laws is a series of printed volumes called the United States Statutes at Large.  86 Stat. 45 is the citation for the federal session law in volume 86, page 45 of the United States Statutes at Large.    

In the final step, most session laws are arranged by subject and codified in the titles of the federal code. Not every law becomes codified. For example, budget bills become public laws and are included in the statutes at large, but are not inserted into the U.S. Code.  

The official codification is a printed series of volumes, arranged by numbered subject titles, called the United States Code which is published every six years.  Note: The 2006 official version and all prior versions have only 50 titles.  The 2012 official version has 51 titles. Titles 52-54 were added after 2012 and official versions of these titles are located in the Supplements to the 2012 edition. Titles 52-54 will be included in main volumes of the 2018 official U.S. Code when it is available. 

  Citation example: 17 U.S.C. § 512 (2012) refers to Section 512 of Title 17 of the 2012 edition of the United States Code

If the statutory section you are citing has been amended since 2012, add "as amended by" followed by the Pub. L. that amended the code section. Check the Blue Book for citation help.

Bills - legislation introduced by the Senate or the House of Representatives (that may or may not become enacted law).    See the Federal Legislative History Guide, Bills tab for official PDF sources.  

Public Laws

Official PDF: GovInfo.gov (104th Congress (1995-1996) to present); ProQuest Congressional and ProQuest Legislative Insight   

United States Statutes at Large

Print:  Eckstein Law Library, first floor. Call Number: KF50.U52 (entire set)

Official PDF:  HeinOnline (entire set); GovInfo.gov (Year 1951, 82nd Congress, 1st Session, (Volume 65) - present)

United States Code (Official) & Supplements

Print: Eckstein Law Library, print volumes, first floor. Call Number: KF62.A2 (1925-current version). Supplements follow each edition.

Official PDF: HeinOnline (1925-current version, and supplements); GovInfo.gov (1994-current version & supplements).

Office of the Law Revision Counsel (OLRC)

The official United States Code is prepared by the Office of the Law Revision Counsel (OLRC) of the United States House of Representatives. 

The U.S.Code is a consolidation of federal laws and codification by subject matter of the general and permanent laws of the United States. The OLRC website offers an abundance of information to aid your understanding of the structure of these statutes. In addition to its updating properties, consult the OLRC for an explanation of positive law codification and editorial reclassification, and the difference between these two types of federal statutes.

States

Session Laws

PDF:  HeinOnline has ALL the session laws of the 50 U.S. states, plus Canada, Australia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the D.C. Register. All U.S. state session laws are current within 60 days of their printed publication. State laws since statehood and territorial laws enacted before statehood are available. If you are looking for a state session law in PDF (called Acts or Laws or Chapters, depending on the state), start with Hein. 

Microfiche: Eckstein Law Library, fourth floor. Coverage varies by state. 

Print:  Some older session laws for some states are available on the third floor of Eckstein Law Library. Coverage varies by state and is very limited.

Statutes

PDF: HeinOnline.  The State Statutes Historical Archive includes superseded state statutes for all fifty states. Search the statutes by state, date, description and text. Coverage goes back to 1717, but there are gaps for some states. Check each state by using the drop-down windows in the State Statutes database. 

Print: Annotated versions of state statutes, which may be official, and some older editions of the official statutes of selected states are available on the third floor of Eckstein Law Library. Search by title in the law library catalog. Coverage varies.

Microfiche: Eckstein Law Library, fourth floor. Coverage is variable.  Use the catalog to search by title for the state code, e.g., Florida Statutes, and look for older versions in the results.  Some may be on microfiche.

State legislature websites may link to PDF versions of current and older state statutes. The Law Librarians' Society of Washington D.C. maintains a list of links to state statutes. Coverage varies by state.

Wisconsin

The publication process for Wisconsin legislation is similar to that of federal legislation, but the terminology is slightly different.  A bill originating in the Assembly is called AB ###.  A bill originating in the Senate will be referred to as SB.  Example: AB 108 or SB 108.    

After a bill becomes law in Wisconsin, it is assigned an act number. 2001 Wis. Act 39 refers to the 39th act passed during the 2001-2002 legislative session.  At the end of a legislative session, the acts passed during that session are compiled chronologically and published in the official Wisconsin session laws called the Laws of Wisconsin.  

A citation to the Laws of Wisconsin reads the same as the citation to a Wisconsin Act, or 2001 Wis. Act 39.  The official statutory compilation for Wisconsin is called the Wisconsin Statutes & Annotations.

  Wis. Stat. § 809.23 (2007-2008) refers to section 23 of chapter 809 from the 2007-2008 edition of the Wisconsin Statutes & Annotations. 

Bills

PDF:  Wisconsin Legislature website (1995--present)

Microfiche: Eckstein Law Library, first floor. Call Number:  KFW 2821.5.B5 W57 (1875--)

Print:  Eckstein Law Library, first floor. Call Number: KFW 2406 (current session only)

Acts

PDF: Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau website 

Print: Eckstein Law Library, first floor. Call Number: KFW 2406 (current session only) 

Laws of Wisconsin

PDF:  HeinOnline 

Print: Eckstein Law Library, first and third floors.  Call Number: KFW 2425.2.L39 (entire set) 

Wisconsin Statutes & Annotations

PDF: Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau website 

Print: Eckstein Law Library, first and third floors.  Call Number: KFW 2430.A22 (entire set)