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Government Publications & Legal Documents


The Federal Consumer Information Center offers a free Consumer Information Catalog, listing hundreds of publications by federal agencies on a wide variety of topics. See the links at the bottom right side of their website.


GPO Access provides access to numerous information products produced by the Federal Government, which are listed in their GPO Access Online Resources: A-Z Resource List as well as on this PoliSource page under Index of Government Publications and Legal Documents. You can use their U.S. Government Online Bookstore to see what's available for sale in any of over 100 categories and to register for the E-mail Alert Service, which "allows you to receive convenient and timely e-mail updates of selected new publications available for sale from the Superintendent of Documents."


The Library of Congress maintains a Historical Documents page that includes 115 documents from the Library of Congress (some are divisions of a single document) and external links to The Declaration of Independence, The U.S. Constitution, The Bill of Rights, and Constitutional Amendments 11-27, from the U.S. National Archives & Records Administration's website.


From The University of Oklahoma College of Law, A Chronology of U.S. Historical Documents provides links to documents from the pre-colonial era to the present. A large number of these documents are inaugural addresses, which are better obtained through The Library of Congress's Collection Connections page on presidential inaugurations, though the time-line presentation on the university's page is appealing. A somewhat unrelated but interesting inclusion is the Photographic Time Line of the Civil War.


Legal research basics

Federal bills go through several versions during the process of being approved by congress—the final version being the enrolled bill, which is sent to the president to be signed. You can search for bills with the Library of Congress's Thomas database or at GPO Access.

Once an enrolled bill is signed by the President, it's assigned a public law (Pub.L.) or private law (Pvt.L.) number by the The Office of the Federal Register (OFR) and issued as a slip law, which is admissible as legal evidence. The OFR also prepares a legal statutory citation, marginal notes, citations, and a legislative history. At the end of each session of Congress, slip laws are compiled into bound volumes called the Statutes at Large and are known as session laws. Every six years, public laws are incorporated into the United States Code—a codification of all general and permanent laws of the United States.

See the following pages for more information.


Statutes on the web (entries and descriptions primarily from Electronic Sources for U.S. Statutes and the U.S. Code at http://www.llsdc.org/statutes-code/ and other sources.)

Cornell's Legal Information Institute - U.S. Code and Popular Name Table
Effective date is January, within one to three years of current date. Disregard release dates. Can search, browse, cite and link to individual sections. Also has a popular name table [but see Polisource's Named Acts page] that links to many U.S. Code cites.

Findlaw - U.S. Code and Popular Name Table
The effective date is shown on the top right of each page which is in January within 1 to 3 years of current date. Can search, browse, cite and link to individual sections. Also has a popular name table. Beware that the notes area of a USC section may be incomplete.

GPO Access provides the full text of public and private laws from the 104th Congress (1995-1996) to the current Congress. When using their Quick Search tool, you should include quotes around certain search terms, such as "public law 108-3".

THOMAS provides the full text of laws from the 101st Congress (1989-1990) to the current Congress. For laws from the 104th Congress (1995-1996) to the present Congress, there's a link to the GPO Access site. You can use Thomas's Search Bill Text box to search for laws. If the bill became a public law, it will be indicated beside Last Major Action on the bill's Bill Summary & Status page.

HeinOnline has digital U.S. Statutes At Large (not word searchable).

Law Revision Counsel, Office of the - U.S. Code (official compilers and publishers of the U.S. Code in the U.S. House of Representatives)
- The effective date is shown on the top right of each page which is in January within 1 to 3 years of the current date. Has Word files for whole chapters of titles not for individual sections, but can get just the section by cite method. Can search or browse. For popular names of law search as in example "Jones Act" AND "Popular Names".

LexisNexis - U.S. Code and U.S. Statutes at Large (subscription or credit card service)
- Has an updated Code (USCS) and back years from 1992 (files US1992, US1994, etc.). Updates may take a few weeks. Can search or browse. Also has a popular name table (file GENFED;USNAME) from 1789 with cites to amendments and links to Code cites of some of those amendments. Has U.S. Statutes at Large from 1789 (in PDF, not directly searchable) available by citation method and a searchable public law file from 1988.

Library of Congress - U.S. Statutes at Large and Public Laws via THOMAS service
- Covers the years 1789-1873; browseable but not directly searchable; part of Library's American Memory Project. Though THOMAS service on Congress has the text of public laws back to 1989 (enrolled bill version) and information about laws back to 1973.

LoisLaw.com - U.S. Code (subscription service)
Has current U.S. Code - searchable and browseable.

Potomac Publishing Company - U.S. Statutes at Large (subscription service)
- From 1789 to Present; PDF copies of statutes. It is the only early statutes that is word searchable. Also on Lexis, but not word searcable

The Law.net - U.S. Code (subscription service)
- Has current U.S. Code - searchable and browseable.

VersusLaw.com - U.S. Code (subscription service)
- Has current U.S. Code - searchable and browseable.

Westlaw - U.S. Code and U.S. Statutes at Large (subscription or credit card service )
- Has an updated Code (USCA) from 1990 (see files USCA90, USCA94, etc. and a new "effective date" sevice from 1996). Updates may take a few weeks. Can search or browse. Also has a popular name index (file USCA-POP) from 1789 with breakdown links to USCA cites and public law numbers of recent laws. Has a new U.S. Statutes at Large premium service from 1789 to 1972 (not word searcable) and a public law file (USCCAN-PL) from 1973.


PoliSource copies of government publications and legal documents

PoliSource maintains a collection of some important documents. Those referenced by PoliSource editorials are likely to be included and to include links to the referring editorials. Below are links to the documents currently available on PoliSource:

Legal Documents 
The U.S. Constitution
• • •
The Bill of Rights preamble
• • •
The Bill of Rights
• • •
Constitutional Amendments 11-27
• • •
Declaration of Independence
• • •
The U.S.A. PATRIOT Act of 2001
• • •
Federal Election Campaign Laws 2004 (full PDF)
• • •
Federal Election Campaign Laws 2004 (divided PDFs):
Section 1 · Section 2 · Section 3 · Section 4
• • •
Federal Election Campaign Laws 2004 (divided HTML):
(Google's conversions from PDF—not recommended)
Section 1 · Section 2 · Section 3 · Section 4
 
Other Publications 
The World Factbook 2001
• • •
Background Notes (country data)

Index of Government Publications and Legal Documents

The alphabetical list below includes:

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