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PG 350: Judicial Process and Policy Making: Finding and Reading the Actual Statute

Finding Federal Statutes in Print

Once you have the Statutes at Large citation (52 Stat 1040), go to the print version of the Statutes found in Beeghly's Government Documents section in 2 call number locations:



GS4.111 and AE2.111


1. Find the volume that corresponds with your statute (52 Stat 1040) = volume 52.

2. In the upper right/left corners of the pages are the page numbers that correspond with the second part of your citation = 1040.

3. Once you find the correct page, look for a beginning of your statute, usually signified by "AN ACT."

4. Begin reading through the statute in its entirety until you find the section or part of the statute being debated. Sometimes you might have to read or skim the entire statute to get a full understanding.


*Digitized versions of the Statutes at Large also exist online. However not all years are covered. For digitized versions of 1951-1980 or 2003-2007 click HERE

Finding State Statutes from Cornell's Site

 a) Go to the Cornell Law web site:


            -Under “State law resources," click on “Listing by Jurisdiction

            -Click on the state in question and try to see if they have a link for the Administrative Code by the subheading "Statutes.


Finding State Statutes in Nexis Uni

If you have the case already open, you can click on the section of the code in question found in the syllabus or summary and maybe in the overview of the case and you will be taken to that section of the code. Or you can take the code citation mentioned in the syllabus and search the US Code using Nexis Uni. To do so…

-Go to Nexis Uni

-Click "All Nexis Uni" (Right side of the page)

-Then click the "Administrative Codes and Regulations" box. You can also narrow by Jurisdiction

-Type or paste the code citation into the search bar


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

Federal Legislative History

In the margin of the Statutes at Large, you will normally find the date of the statute, public law number, and a citation indicating the origin of each act and resolution. This citation is important if you wanted to trace the legislative history of the act, which indicates how the bill progressed chronologically, from its introduction to its enactment into law. Below are what some of the citations of origin stand for: 

H.R.                 House bill

S.                  Senate bill

H.J.Res.          House Joint Resolution

S.J.Res.          Senate Joint Resolution

H. Con.Res.     House Concurrent Resolution

S. Con. Res.    Senate Concurrent Resolution

H. Res.           House Simple Resolution

S. Res.           Senate Simple Resolution


For a list of definitions go to the following address on the GPO Access web site and look under the heading Definitions of Types of Legislation:

State Legislative History

It will be close to impossible to look up the history or prior court cases for the states as records are not kept or made available in the same way as they are for the federal government.