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Cite Checking Guide for Law Reviews & Publication: State Law Materials and the Uniform Electronic Legal Materials Act

UELMA and its value for cite-checking official sources

Cite-checkers may be able to obtain official versions of state primary law from the legislative websites of states that have passed the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA).   If you need an official version of a state statute, constitution, act (session law), or regulation, you may be able to secure it in authenticated form from the state's government website, if that state has passed legisation making its primary legal materials UELMA compliant.  So far, 16 states and Washington D.C. have enacted UELMA. Check to see which legal materials the state has successfully uploaded in official, authenticated form.  For example, some UELMA states have included only state statutes, so far.  Case law is not official on most UELMA state websites. 

The District of Columbia and sixteen (16) states have enacted versions of UELMA: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, and West Virginia.

"The Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA) is a uniform law that addresses many of the concerns posed by the publication of state primary legal material online. UELMA provides a technology-neutral, outcomes-based approach to ensuring that online state legal material deemed official will be preserved and will be permanently available to the public in unaltered form. It furthers state policies of accountability and transparency in providing legal information to the public."   From UELMA FAQs — American Association of Law Libraries (AALL).

What does UELMA accomplish for states?

"Enactment of the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA), approved by the Uniform Law Commission in 2011, will ensure that online state legal material deemed official will be preserved and will be permanently available to the public in unaltered form. UELMA furthers state policies of accountability and transparency by ensuring public access to information produced by the government. UELMA does not prescribe specific technologies so that states can determine their preferred systems.

The act requires that if legal material is published only in electronic form, it must be designated official. Official electronic legal material must be:

  1. Authenticated, by providing a method to determine that it is unaltered;
  2. Preserved, either in electronic or print form; and
  3. Accessible, for use by the public on a permanent basis.

What Legal Materials are Covered by UELMA?

Four categories of basic state legal material are specifically named in the act, including the state constitution, state session laws, codified laws, and agency regulations which have the effect of law. The state has discretion to include any other publications it deems appropriate."

Quoted text is from a one-pager explanation available on the UELMA resources page of the Association of American Law Libraries (AALL).   

UELMA enactment details

Use the AALL UELMA webpage to find information about the states that have enacted UELMA and what other states have introduced legislation.  The site also has the text of the uniform law endorsed by the Uniform Law Commission. 

NOTE: States are free to pass a variation of the uniform law and still be considered UELMA states, if the fundamentals of official, encrypted versions of primary law are met.  From the UELMA information page, open the PDF describing which states have passed UELMA statutes, and you will see a description of what laws are included in each state's enactment.  For example, state statutes have been a priority and have been covered in the enactments of all UELMA states so far.  On the other hand, some of the states have not yet included their administrative codes.