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

Overview

Just as the Restatements are an attempt to give a uniform statement of the common law, there are also attempts to establish uniform statutory laws across jurisdictions. In 1892, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, also sometimes referred to as NCCUSL was organized.  NCCUSL has now been renamed the Uniform Law Commission.  A uniform law is so designated when it has a reasonable chance of enactment in a substantial number of states. One of the most well known uniform laws is the Uniform Commercial Code. 

A model act is a proposal that does not have a reasonable chance of enactment in a substantial number of states.  The American Law Institute, the same people who do the Restatements, often propose Model Acts.  The Model Penal Code is an example of a well known model act.

Many jurisdictions will adopt a uniform law completely or adopt a modified version of that law. Use Uniform Laws to research uniform statutory language, locate state codifications from jurisdictions that have adopted the uniform language, and explore jurisdictional variations in the adoption of the law.

Uniform Law Commission (formerly NCCUSL)

The Uniform Law Commission, also known as The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL), has a website where you can access uniform laws information. While this is a good source to find drafts of uniform laws and jurisdictions adopting uniform laws, it is not a good source to find case law interpreting those uniform laws. For case law, you want to use that Uniform Laws Annotated or go to your state annotated codes.

You can also check the individual state web sites for bills and session laws.

Uniform Laws Annotated

One of the best known sources of uniform laws is Uniform Laws Annotated.  This is a set that is similar in many ways to an annotated code only it covers uniform laws instead of actual statutes. After each section are cases that interpret that section.  The set has a Directory and Tables pamphlet that is extremely useful.  Not only will this directory tell you which volume to find that uniform act, but it also has a Table of Jurisdictions Listing Uniform Acts adopted and if there is more than one version of a uniform act, which version.  The Table of Jurisdictions Listing Uniform Acts Adopted is also available online in the references and annotations section for each Uniform Law.

Model Acts & Laws

Some Model Acts are published in West's Uniform Laws Annotated. The American Bar Association publishes a number of Model Acts. The American Law Institute (www.ali.org) publishes a number of model codes.  Probably the best known of these is the Model Penal Code. Some associations and organizations will also draft model laws.

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