Friday, December 19, 2008

Researching Uniform Laws and Model Acts

State legislators are busy people; between staff briefings, budget votes, and non-stop reelection campaigning, who has time to actually draft legislation any more? Fortunately, there’s the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, which has been saving legislators time and effort since 1892. NCCUSL prepares “uniform laws”, intended for legislatures to adopt in full, as well as “model acts”, whose language can be used by legislatures as a starting point for similar laws. (Note: Model acts may also be drafted by other groups, such as the American Law Institute.)

Some of the best-known examples of such laws are the Uniform Commercial Code (see the library’s research guide) and the Model Penal Code (drafted by the American Law Institute).

Uniform laws and model acts promote consistency in legislation across state governments. However, because legislatures may choose to adopt only parts of these laws, determining the status of such a law in a particular state can be challenging. Here are some sources for locating the text of these uniform laws and researching their status.

Uniform Laws Annotated (Practice & Procedure KF879.A45 U51 and Westlaw: ULA database) compiles the text of uniform and model acts which have been adopted by at least one state. The annotations describe which jurisdictions have adopted the act, along with any variations in the text. ULA also provides case annotations.

The text of uniform laws from NCCUSL can also be found at the NCCUSL website, in an online archive at the University of Pennsylvania’s Biddle Law Library, in the Goodson Law Library Microforms Room (up to 2006) and now on HeinOnline’s new National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws library.

Model laws from other organizations can be found in the Duke University Libraries catalog and in HeinOnline’s American Law Institute library, as well as in Uniform Laws Annotated.

For assistance with researching uniform laws and model acts, please speak with a reference librarian.