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PG 350: Judicial Process and Policy Making: Finding the Controversial Statute Citation

Find the Federal Statute Citation in Your Syllabus

1. First, identify the statute in the case syllabus. A statute citation looks like this (52 Stat. 1040). Most times however you will see the statute’s popular name (e.g. Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act) or United States Code (USC) citation (e.g. 21 USC sec. 301).  If no statute citation is listed, you will be able to find it using the United States Code (USC) citation or popular name.


A citation for the US Statutes at Large is read as follows:

52=         volume

Stat.=     US Statutes at Large (name of publication)

1040=     page #



A citation for the United States Code can be read as follows: 

21=           code title/subject #

USC =      United States Code (name of publication)

sec 301=   section of the USC title



Find the State Statute Citation in Your Syllabus

Your case might not deal with a federal statute. Instead, it might deal with one coming from an individual state. States have statutes and codes similar to that of the federal goverment, however, they are particular to that state. Researching the history of state statutes and codes can be a bit trickier but not impossible. Once you identify you have a state issue in your syllabus, follow the instructions for Finding State Statutes under the tab Finding and Reading the Actual Statute.


Be sure to cover the following...

1. Overall, what is the purpose of the statute/why was it passed?

2. Controversies about the statute

3. Identify and discuss the part of the statute that gives rise to the controversy before the Supreme Court

Statutes at Large vs. US Code

For an explanation of what a statute is and what the US Code is, the University of Minnesota has a fantastic guide that explains the legislative process. Check out the "Laws Printed and Codified" and "Regulations" sections.

What's Being Argued

Careful: Sometimes what's being argued is not a section of the original statue but part of an amendment, etc. to the original that is now part of the current statute. If that's the case, you may have to do extra digging and repeat a few steps to find the part of the statute you need in the US Code and CFR.