It is often useful and important to find out what the law is, but it is not always easy to do so. Fogler Library is not a law library, but it does contain materials to help you do certain kinds of legal research. Before beginning your search for information step back and consider what you really want to know. In the United States laws are established by many different institutions at many different levels. If you have questions regarding sales tax law in Maine, federal law will likely be irrelevant.
A good deal of legal research hinges on being able to identify who makes the law relevant to your question and who hears cases based on that law. Is the law federal, state, local, regional, or international? Is the law made by Congress, a regulatory body, a state legislature, local government, or an international agency? Which courts hear the relevant cases and appeal: federal, state, special judicial bodies, or international? This guide is restricted to information about law in the U.S. and Maine. It may be that you need information not covered by this guide or not owned by Fogler Library. Please contact us at Ask-a-Librarian with any questions.
If you have a general interest in some legal topic, i.e. divorce, it is best to use non-technical sources, since most legal reference works do not give simple answers to general questions. West's Encyclopedia of American Law, Ref KF 154 .W47, may be a good starting place.
American Jurisprudence (a lawyer's encyclopedia) - Ref KF 154 .A42, also searchable through LexisNexis Academic
Black's Law Dictionary - Ref Desk KF 156 .B35
HelpMELaw - Maine legal help resource
iResearch - Maine State Law and Legislative Reference Library
Legal Information Institute - Cornell University Law School
Research Help - Law Library of Congress
West's Encyclopedia of American Law - Ref KF 154 .W47
Legislative history traces the course of a bill through all its stages from introduction to passage. It is often necessary to know the legislative history of a law in order to understand the intent of the legislators.
A weekly news magazine about Congress, includes reports on bills and provides background information on issues.
Congressional Record - Gov Docs:Open X
The transcripts of Congressional sessions, the cumulative indexes include a section called "History of Bills and Resolutions."
Congressional Universe - Includes legislative histories from 1970
FDSys (GPO) - Includes recent Congressional bills, hearings, reports, public laws, and the Congressional Record.
Thomas - Maintained by the Library of Congress, includes bill text from the 101st Congress and bill status from 1973. Also includes some access to the Congressional Record
U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1817-1980 - Contains all publications from the 15th through the 96th Congresses
State of Maine Legislature Bill Text & Status - Searchable access to the full text and status of bills.
Maine Legislative Record - Spec Coll St.Docs L 40.27
The transcripts of Legislative sessions; indexed with brief legislative histories.
History & Full Disposition of Legislative Documents - Spec Coll St.Docs L 40.28; Published annually, provides the legislative history of each bill introduced into the Legislature.
Statutory law includes 1) the laws passed by legislative bodies, and 2) administrative rules and regulations which, because of legislative acts, have force of law.
Federal Legislative Acts
Laws - Gov Docs:Open AE 2.110
The first published version of a law enacted by Congress. Each includes the legislative history of the law. Cited by Public Law number which includes the number of the Congress in which it was passed and its chronological number, i.e. P.L. 100-134.
U.S. Statutes at Large - Gov Docs:Open AE 2.111
Laws passed by Congress by session, in chronological order. Cited by volume and page, i.e. 100 Stat 134.
Congressional Universe>Legislative Histories, Bills & Laws - can search for Public Laws by number or keyword; full-text from 1988
United States Code
- Gov Docs Y 1.2/5; also searchable at
& State Codes
The official compilation of federal laws currently in force arranged by titles or subjects. Cited by title and section, i.e. 43 U.S.C. 2010.
United States Code Service - Ref KF 62 1972 .L38
A privately published compilation of federal laws by title, comparable to the U.S. Code, but with some historical information. Cited by title and section, i.e. 43 U.S.C.S. 2010
Federal Administrative Rules
Docs:Open AE 2.106
Daily listing of new and proposed regulations which have the force of law. Cited by volume and page, i.e. 54 FR 12463.
Code of Federal Regulations
- Gov Docs:Open AE 2.106/3
Annual cumulation of all regulations in force, by subject. Cited by title and section, i.e. 50 CFR 611.95.
LexisNexis>Legal>Federal & State Codes - can search either the Federal Register or the Code of Federal Regulations
Maine Legislative Acts
Legislative Acts and Documents
Slip laws enacted by the Legislature. Cited by year and number, i.e. 1988 Me.Acts 323.
Bill Text and Status - Status available from the 121st Legislature; text available from 119th Legislature
Laws of Maine Spec Coll St.Docs L 38.22
Official compilation of laws published for each year and arranged by subject. Cited by year and number, i.e. 1989 Me.Laws 231.
Maine Revised Statutes Annotated
- Ref KFM 30 .A24. searchable (not annotated) at
& State Codes>Maine
Compilation of Maine laws currently in effect. Cited by title and section, i.e. 14 MRSA 1144. The print edition has historical annotations.
Maine Administrative Rules
Code of Maine Rules - Ref KFM 35 1986 .A32
Privately published compilation of Maine administrative rules.
Maine State Agency Rules - Rules by Department.
Case law covers the decisions of the courts. These decisions fix the interpretation of the law and establish precedent.
Federal Case Law
LexisNexis>Legal>Federal & State Cases - includes Supreme Court, District Courts, and Courts of Appeals
United States Reports - Gov Docs Ju 6.8
The official compilation of Supreme Court decisions at the end of each session. Cited by volume and page, i.e. 110 U.S. 354.
Supreme Court Decisions 1937-1975 - Search by case name or keyword.
Supreme Court Decisions 1990- - Search by case name, keyword, or topic.
Supreme Court Reporter - Ref KF 101.6 .S9
Privately compiled Supreme Court decisions by session. Cited by volume and page, i.e. 88 S.Ct. 123. Can be accessed with U.S. Reports citations.
U.S. District Court, District of Maine - Opinions since 1996.
Google Scholar> Legal Opinions & Journals - Some federal and state decisions
Maine Case Law
LexisNexis>Legal>Federal & State Cases - includes Maine Supreme Court decisions from 1820 and Maine Superior Court decisions from 1979
Maine Supreme Court Opinions - Decisions since 1997.
Maine Reports - Spec Coll St.Docs J 90 .D8
The decisions of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, issued at the end of each session. Cited by volume and page, i.e. 123 Me. 234.
A legal citation is a reference to a specific law or case. The works below provide examples:
Citators provide ways to trace related cases. A decision may cite prior cases, or be cited in future cases, and citators allow these links to be followed.
Topical law reporters are collections of laws, rules, cases and commentary related to one particular subject.
Federal Securities Law Reporter - Ref KF 1436.5 .C62
Internet Law in a Nutshell - Ref KF 390.5 .C6 R87
Media Law Reporter - Ref KF 2750 .A513
LexisNexis>Legal>Law Reviews - searchable, full-text, access to major law reviews
Legislative Histories of Selected U.S. Laws - Law Librarians' Society of Washington, D.C.
United States Law - from LLRX.com, a variety of information
Jurist - University of Pittsburgh School of Law
FindLaw - A variety of legal resources by category.
To contact a Reference Librarian with questions, click here: Ask-a-Librarian.