Friday, June 20, 2008

2006 U.S. Code: Better Late Than Never

During the appellate brief writing and cite-checking season, two of our most frequent questions at the Reference Desk are: which year to use when citing to a federal statute, and when it is appropriate to cite to an unofficial code (U.S.C.A. or U.S.C.S.) instead of the official United States Code (U.S.C.).

Bluebook Rule 12.3 indicates a preference for the official code “whenever possible.” However, the 6-year gap between U.S.C. compilations can create problems when citing to more recent amendments or enactments, if they do not yet appear in the Code volumes or the annual supplements. In those cases, Rule 12.2.1 advises researchers to cite to an unofficial code until the next edition of the U.S. Code is published.

Although the last version of the official Code is the “2000 edition”, the lengthy compilation and publication process meant that the actual volumes did not land in libraries until 2002. The new “2006 edition” has experienced similar delays, but is now beginning to arrive, both in print and online.

Currently, the Law Library Annex has received bound volumes for Titles 1 through 7 of the U.S.C.’s 50 titles. These can be found at the end of the Reference Collection, following the complete 2000 edition of the U.S.C.

The Office of the Law Revision Counsel (which is responsible for compiling the official Code) is also posting PDF versions of the 2006 edition as they are prepared for print publication, and is currently up to Title 17.

Keep this ongoing development in mind if you will be citing to the U.S. Code over the summer.