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Researching Statutes: Introduction

This guide serves as an introduction to statutory research. To access the linked databases on Westlaw and Lexis, you should sign on to Westlaw and Lexis before clicking on the links in this guide.



Statutes are laws which are enacted by a legislature, be it Congress or state legislatures. When a law is initially enacted, it is published as a slip law.  Usually slip laws are published on a "slip" of paper or in a pamphlet. At the federal level, these slip laws are assigned a public law number.  While at the state level, the slip laws are given a chapter number.  At the end of a legislative session, slip laws are collected and published in order of enactment.  These publications are called session laws.  Session laws are useful for finding the language of a statute as it was passed in a certain year. The session laws of Congress are referred to as the Statutes at Large. The session laws for New York are officially published as the Laws of New York.

Eventually, session laws are incorporated into a code, which is arranged by subject matter.  The United States Code (U.S.C.) is the official code of the Federal Government. New York State does not have an official code, but rather relies on private publishers, such as West, to codify the session laws. Whether official of unofficial, all codes are kept up to date with pocket parts or supplements. Codes, along with their pocket parts or supplements, state the current language of the law.

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Kathleen Darvil
Brooklyn Law School Library

250 Joralemon Street, Rm 207

Brooklyn, NY 11201