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Advanced Legal Research: Researching Statutes, 50-State Surveys, Uniform Laws & Municipal Codes

Overview

Each session law is assigned a number.  In the Federal system, the first part of the number is the congress that passed the law. 

Pub. L. No. 107-56

Here in the Federal example, the 107 refers to the 107th Congress.  The second part of the number is the number of the law passed.  So, here in the example, the 56 refers to it being the 56th law passed by the 107th Congress.

State session laws will vary in their numbering system.  Some use chapters.  Kentucky uses the year and chapter number. Indiana numbers its post-1982 public laws by first assigning the law a number and then the year of the law.  So in the Indiana example, the numbering scheme refers to it being the 33rd law passed in the year 2008. Ohio uses the bill number.

KY:  1998 Ky. Acts ch. 21, § 1

IN:  Pub. L. 33-2008

OH:  Am. H.B. No. 268, 126  Ohio Laws 730.

Where to Find Session Laws

Session laws usually have official and unofficial publications. 

Federal

Official

Unofficial

State

With most states, you will also find their session laws published in the legislative service pamphlets published by West or the Advance Service published by Lexis. Many states will also publish their session laws on the state website. 

Citation Format fo Session Laws

Bluebook

Rule 12.4 of The Bluebook (21st ed. 2020) covers the citation of session laws. The Bluepages B12.1.1 and Table 1 should also be consulted. The citation should include the following:

Elements

  • Title of Act
    • Use official or popular name if one exists
    • Otherwise identify the act with the date of enactment or effectiveness (abbreviated per T. 12)
  • Volume (if no volume, give the year)
  • Abbreviated name of session law publication (see  T. 1)
  • Pages and sections (if pinpoint citing give the beginning page and the relevant page to which you are citing)
  • Year of enactment (if no date of enactment, use effective date)
  • Codification information (as a parenthetical)

Examples:

Immigration and Nationality Act, Pub. L. No. 82-414, § 101, 66 Stat. 163, 167 (1952) (codified as amended at 8 U.S.C. § 1101).

Act of Dec. 31, 1996, Pub. Act 89-685, 1996 Ill. Laws 685 (codified as amended at 735 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/3-107).

Act of Apr. 12, 1994, § 2, 1993-1994 Ohio Laws 6546, 6548-50.

Am. S. B. No. 47, 2013 Ohio Legis. Serv. Ann. L-13, L-23 (West) (codified as amended at Ohio Rev. Stat. § 3503.06).

Am. S. B. No. 47, 2013 Ohio Legis. Bull. 24, 39, (Lexis) (codified as amended at Ohio Rev. Stat. § 3503.06).

ALWD

Rule 14.6 & 14.8 in the ALWD Citation Manual (7th ed.) covers the citation of session laws.

Elements

  • Title of Act
    • Use official or popular name if one exists (omit "the")
    • Otherwise identify the act with the date of enactment or effectiveness (abbreviated per Appx. 3(A))
  • Law abbreviation
  • The abbreviation "No."
  • Law number
  • Pinpoint reference (if applicable)
  • Volume
  • Abbreviated name of session law publication (See Appx. 1)
  • Pages and sections (if pinpoint citing give the beginning page and the relevant page to which you are citing)
  • Year
  • Codification information (as a parenthetical)

Examples

Immigration and Nationality Act, Pub. L. No. 82-414, § 101, 66 Stat. 163, 167 (1952) (codified as amended at 8 U.S.C. § 1101).

Act of Apr. 12, 1994, § 2, 1993-1994 Ohio Laws 6546, 6548-50.

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