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Legislation: USA: federal

Subjects: Law, Law - Foreign Law

Federal legislation online

OU members may access these materials most conveniently via the subscription databases Fastcase, HeinOnline and Westlaw, but they are also freely available on US government websites (links below).

Restatements of law and the work of the A.L.I.

Restatements of the Law, published by the American Law Institute (A.L.I.), were intended to restate the common law in a clear and systematic way. It was hoped that they would eventually be accorded almost the same degree of authority as the decisions of the courts.They have been more influential than most treatises, and have been described (Cohen and Olson) as an unofficial common law emulation of the codes of the civil law system.

Principles of the law  are attempts to "express the law as it should be."

The A.L.I. also publishes uniform laws and model acts, which are proposed laws recommended for adoption by the individual states as part of their own law.  These include the Uniform Commercial Code (U.C.C.), and the Model Penal Code.

The library's print holdings of the above (including some working papers & drafts) are at USA 045 on level 3.

 Holders of an Oxford SSO can find online access to ALI's Restatements & Principles of the Law among the secondary sources on Westlaw US

Most uniform laws and model acts are also included in Uniform Laws Annotated (see above under Legislation).

Federal legislation

Federal legislation is published both chronologically and in codified form.  The official codified version is the United States Code which was first published in 1926 and was preceded by the Revised Statutes of the United States.  It should be noted that, unlike the coherent codes of civil law jurisdictions, the United States Code is a collection of separately enacted statutes which have been consolidated into a logical framework.  Although the Code is compiled and published under the authority of Congress, only certain “titles” (the main subdivisions) have been enacted into positive law.  For other titles, the Code is prima facie evidence of the law, but the authoritative text is that found in the individual acts as published in Statutes at Large.

US legislation in print & historic collections

The Library's extensive holding of US law includes old editions of series of legislation, shelved in the secondary collection on the ground floor of the Law Libary. This collection is open access to readers who have choice of lift or stairs. Shelf marks run from USA 010 to USA 045
For example the Law Library has
United States Code  Call Number: USA 030 Editions of 1926, 1934, 1940, 1952, 1958, 1964, 1970, 1976, 1982, 1988, 1994, 2000
A codifiction of the general and permanent laws of the United States in force on the effective date of the edition. First published in 1926, with new editions in 1934 and then at six-year intervals, and with annual supplements in the intervening years. (The 1926 edition was published in Vol. 44, Part 1, of Statutes at Large.) Although published with congressional authorization, only certain titles (the main subdivisions) have been enacted as positive law. 

Online sources for historic US legislation are: