Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Finding Federal Law Materials

Statutes and regulations and case law, oh my! There are so many places to find federal legal sources that it can feel overwhelming at the start of a research project. If you've been relying on Law School-only tools like Westlaw, Lexis, and Bloomberg Law, you might not know where to begin when you no longer have access to your favorite research service. Fortunately, the Goodson Law Library can help with our Federal Law Links list, which provides alternative (and often free) web access to the current and historical U.S. Code, federal legislative history documents, federal court opinions, and agency/executive resources.

For items published after the mid-1990s, the U.S. Government Publishing Office's govinfo, currently in beta, is a great place to start. This site will eventually replace FDsys as the federal government’s official online repository; note that both sites currently offer the same content, but govinfo does not yet include browsing capability for certain collections. Govinfo's A-Z collection browse and Frequently Asked Questions should clarify any coverage concerns.

The Federal Law Links list also covers some other sources for federal material, particularly through the Library of Congress's partnership with the subscription database HeinOnline. The LOC/Hein partnership provides free public access to historical PDF backfiles of the U.S. Code, Code of Federal Regulations, Federal Register, and U.S. Reports – all pre-dating what is available in govinfo/FDsys. (Researchers with a current affiliation to Duke University may also access these titles directly in HeinOnline, by authenticating with a NetID through a link on a Duke Libraries site.)

Remember that the Goodson Law Library Legal Databases & Links page as well as its Research Guides are great places to begin forming your research strategy. For further assistance with locating federal legal materials, be sure to Ask a Librarian.