A code is a subject arrangement of the laws of a jurisdiction. There are official and unofficial codes. A code may be annotated (containing editorial enhancements to help with research or interpretation) or unannotated. The advantages of using a code for research include:
In addition to the statutes, many codes contain constitutions and court rules.
Retrieving a statute by legal citation is the easiest and fastest way to get the specific case to which the citation refers.
Suppose our citation was for 42 U.S.C.§ 1983 and I wanted to find this statute in print.
To find this statute online:
The structure and organization of statutory codes will vary by jurisdiction.
The United States Code, the subject arrangement of federal statutes, is arranged by subject into 54 subject titles (title 53 is in reserve and does not yet have a subject assigned to it), with chapter and section subdivisions. Of the 54 titles, the following titles have been enacted into positive (statutory) law: 1, 3, 4, 5, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 17, 18, 23, 28, 31, 32, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 44, 46, 49, 51, and 54. When a title of the Code is enacted into positive law, the text of the title becomes legal evidence of the law. Titles that have not been enacted into positive law are only prima facie evidence of the law. In that case, the Statutes at Large still govern.
When looking at a code section, you will see the text of the section, then historical notes, the Statutes at Large citation, and references to related code sections.
In Ohio, the statutes are broadly organized by titles (there are 33) and then further broken down by articles, chapters, and sections. For more information on Ohio codes, see the Ohio Legal Research Guide.
Some states, such as California, Maryland, New York, and Texas, use subject words for their broader organization. If you look in Table 1 of the Bluebook or Appendix 1 of ALWD under one of those jurisdictions, they will give you the subject break downs. You actually include those subjects in your citation.
United States Code (U.S.C.)
Publication of state codes will vary. The Law Library's state codes are located on the 4th floor with the other state materials at call numbers KFA through KFZ. Note that most of the print codes are no longer being updated.
Ohio does not publish an official version of the Ohio Revised Code, instead unofficial versions of the code are published.
A session law is the chronological publication of the laws passed by a jurisdiction. You may hear session laws referred to as acts as well. Session laws may include both public (laws of a general nature) and private (laws that apply to a specific person or group or that are temporary in nature) laws. 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.
Session laws usually have official and unofficial publications.
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.
If you need to research a particular issue as treated by multiple state statutes there are several useful tools that can save you a lot of work. Just be aware that these may only address selected narrow topics and that they may not be current. Be sure to locate the date of the survey or latest revisions.
Cheryl Rae Nyberg's Subject Compilation of State Laws provides citations to law review articles, books, and other sources in which state statutes are compared. It is not cumulative so you may need to check multiple "volumes."
University of Cincinnati Libraries
PO Box 210033 Cincinnati, Ohio 45221-0033