MAKING SURE YOU HAVE THE MOST CURRENT INFORMATION
Currency in law is everything. New cases, rules and statutes are coming out constantly. This page will explain how to update most law related materials.
The federal statutes are published in three different places and how you update them will depend on which version of the statutes you carry in your library.
1. UPDATING THE UNITED STATES CODE
This version of the statutes comes from the Government Printing Office. As a result, updates are slow, and care should be used in making sure you have the most current.
- Check for a hardbound supplement at the end of the set. Your United States Code set is only updated through the date on this volume.
- If your library carries it, check the most recent United States Code and Congressional News softbound supplement. This is a different publication from the United States Code. It prints the public laws as they are passed, and key legislative history about those public laws.
- In the middle of this softbound supplement there is a Table 3 that will show “U.S. Code & U.S. Code Annotated Sections Amended, Repealed, New, etc. and will give you the number of any public laws have amended the statute you are updating. Table 3 is current through the public law number listed on the cover, and generally only covers the current session. If there is a multi-year gap between the date of the United States hardbound supplement came out and the United States Code and Congressional News Supplement you will want to make sure that between the two you have covered all Congressional Sessions.
- If your library does not carry the United States Code and Congressional News, then you could try to update your statute using one of two recommended internet sites. The first site is Cornell Law School. At this site, once you have pulled up your code section, there is an update link that you can use to let you know if a public law has amended the statute you are viewing. Another site, Congress.gov has the Code going back to 1973. This site is a more difficult to use for updating though, as there isn’t an updating feature or a table that you can check, so you would have to search for your section within the full-text of the public laws that have been passed since your volume was published. Another option would be to call and ask a reference librarian at your local law library to check an updated version of the code to see if your section was amended more recently than the date on your United States Code volume.
2. UPDATING THE UNITED STATES CODE ANNOTATED
- Check the pocket part in the back of the volume or softbound supplement next to the volume for any changes to your statute section.
- Check the softbound supplements at the end of the set. (They will have USCA written in blue. These are noncumulative so check each one).
- Check the most recent United States Code and Congressional News softbound supplement. (Table 3 will show “U.S. Code & U.S. Code Annotated Sections Amended, Repealed, New, etc.). The supplement is current through the public law number listed on the cover.
- To check more current than that, use the govinfo.gov website or the Congress.gov website.
3. UPDATING THE UNITED STATES CODE SERVICE
- Check the pocket part in the back of the volume or softbound supplement for any changes to your statute section.
- Check the latest issues of the Later Case and Statutory Service. These are usually placed at the end of the set and have USCS written in blue.
- Check the latest issue of the monthly advance service. There is a “Table of Code Sections Added, Amended, Repealed or Otherwise Affected” towards the end of the volume.
- Check the most recent United States Code and Congressional News softbound supplement. Table 3 will show “U.S. Code & U.S. Code Annotated Sections Amended, Repealed, New, etc.” The supplement is current through the public law number listed on the cover.
- To check more current than that, the govinfo.gov website or the Congress.gov website.
UPDATING STATE STATUTES
- Check the pocket part or softbound supplement. Some states also have their supplements in separate volumes or at the beginning of each volume.
- Even though the issue year of the pocket part may be current, the small type may indicate the information in the pocket part is only current through the prior legislative session.
- If the pocket part does not contain latest legislative session information check for Advance Legislative Service pamphlets (usually at the end of the statute set). Because some legislatures hold biennial sessions, there may be no Advance Legislative Service pamphlet. To check if you are researching in a state with a biennial session, you could check a book called The Book of the States (published by the Council of State Governments) ) Table 3.2.
- If you know you have had a legislative session since the pocket part, and you can’t find the legislative service, find out if there are any updates from the State Legislative Office (perhaps something called a Digest of Legislation) where you can look up the code section and see if any legislation affected it. You could also try the state web page (will usually follow some format like http://www.state.xx.us/ (substitute the postal abbreviation of the state you are looking for in place of the xx), as many states are putting their legislation on their web pages.
UPDATING THE CODE OF FEDERAL REGULATIONS (CFR)
- Look on the cover of your CFR volume. (The regulations in this volumes are current as of the date listed.)
- Look for the List of Sections Affected (LSA) booklet that includes your title in the range of titles listed on the front cover. It will read “Save this issue for Titles xx-xx (Annual). The LSAs should be kept at the end of the CFR set. This will update your regulation through the month listed on the cover.
- Check the most recently received copy of the LSA. Find the LSA closest in time to the current month. This will update your regulation through the dates listed at the top of the page where your title and section appear.
- For any month that isn’t covered by an LSA, look in the last daily issue of the Federal Register for that month. Check the Reader Aids in the back of the daily issue. It will list CFR Parts Affected during that month.
- Check the Reader Aids in the last received daily issue of the Federal Register.
- To check more current than that, use one of the Government Printing Office (GPO) Access sites.
UPDATING STATE ADMINISTRATIVE CODES
Most states will update their administrative code with some type of Bulletin or Register. Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute provides a listing of state constitutions, statutes, and codes for each state. You could also check with the reference desk of your local public law library to find out the particulars for your state.
The way that you tell whether a case is still good law is to perform a process called Shepardizing.
To do this, you either use a set of books called Shepards Citations. Many public libraries don’t have access to Shepard’s so you may need to refer the patron to a public law library or have the patron shepardize on the internet.
WHAT SHEPARDS DOES FOR YOU
Shepards tells you about other cases that have cited the case you are looking up, and the history of your case through the court system. Shepards may list articles or books which have cited the case you are looking up. You can shepardize other things besides cases like statutes, court rules, regulations, and more.
HOW TO USE THE PAPER VERSION OF SHEPARDS:
- Decide which shepards set you want to use. There is more than one way to shepardize a case. For example, in Utah you could use either the Utah Citations or Pacific Citations to shepardize a Utah case.
- Decide which report of the case to shepardize. If the same case is reported in more than one reporter you must decide which report of the case to shepardize. For example; U.S. Supreme Court Cases are reported in the United States Supreme Court Reports, U.S. Lawyer’s Edition and Supreme Court Reporters. The results from Shepards should be the same no matter which report you use, but you will use different Shepards volumes depending upon which reporter you choose to Shepardize.
- Make sure your Shepards set is complete. Once you have chosen a Shepards set and decided which case report to shepardize, make sure your Shepards set is complete. Your Shepards set can cover more than one volume. To make sure you have a complete set; look on the front cover of the latest pamphlet. It has a section “what your Library should contain” listing the Shepards volumes necessary for a complete search. You are going to be looking for your citation in each volume listed.
- Locate your reporter volume and page number within the Shepards set. The volume number of the reporters are located on the upper outside corners of each page. The page numbers are shown in bold in numerical columns. Locate the volume and page number of your case. Underneath the page number there will be a listing of citations. These are the volumes and page numbers of cases (or articles) where your case is cited. If the reporter citation is different than you are accustomed to, look in the first few pages of that volume to see a table of reporter abbreviations.
- Decipher the symbols used by Shepards.
- Letter Symbols
If there is a letter symbol in front of the citation, that letter has special meaning. The letters show the history or treatment of a case. If you look in the first few pages of the volume, you will find a list of the abbreviations (for example, a for affirmed, o for overruled).
A raised number to the left of the page number of the citation is telling you that this case is discussing the same subject as a headnote section from your case. Some case reporters divide cases up into sections and these sections are referenced by headnotes. The headnotes of a case are listed near the beginning of the case and are numbered consecutively. So, when you see a superscript number to the left of the page number in Shepards, it tells you that this case is discussing the same legal principle as is in the headnote from your case. You need to make sure that you are shepardizing in the correct volumes for your reporter (for example, if your case is a Lawyers Edition, shepardize it under in the volume for Lawyer’s edition), as headnotes vary from reporter to reporter.
- Circuit and State Court Identifiers
There are identifiers in the citation listings signaling the circuit or state court where the case is located.
- Letter Symbols
- Parallel Citations
Generally the first citation listed for a case is the parallel citation and it is in parentheses. This parallel citation is listed the first time a case is reported in Shepards and not in later volumes or supplements. Another way to find parallel citations is through the National Reporter Blue Book. This book includes lists of case citations for every volume of official reports, with cross-references to the regional reporter citations.
UPDATING THE AMERICAN LAW REPORTS
American Law Reports (ALRs) are a case-finding tool. They include summaries of cases about particular topics, and are accessed by means of an index or digest located at the end of the set. Most public libraries do not carry American Law Reports, but just in case you are one of the lucky few, this updating section is for you.
- A.L.R. First Series
Use the ALR Blue Book of Supplemental Decisions located at the end of the ALR (First Series) set. These are not cumulative, so check the Blue Books for the time period(s) you want.
- A.L.R. 2d
Use the Later Case Service volumes located at the end of the A.L.R. 2d series set and their annual pocket parts.
- A.L.R. 3d, A.L.R. 4th, and A.L.R. 5th
Update with pocket parts located in the back of each volume.
- A.L.R. Federal
Update with pocket parts located in the back of each volume.
In addition to the above, always remember to check and see if your annotation has been superseded or supplemented (you can check this in the Annotation History Table in the last volume of the index, or it will also be mentioned in the supplementation).