Skip Navigation


General Sources | Legislative History | Statutory Law | Case Law | Citations & Citators | Topical Law Information | Additional Sources

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.

general sources

legislative history

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.


  • CQ Weekly
    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

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

  • Slip 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 LexisNexis>Legal>Federal & 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

  • Federal Register - Gov 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 Special Collections
    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 LexisNexis>Legal>Federal & 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

Case law covers the decisions of the courts.  These decisions fix the interpretation of the law and establish precedent.

Federal Case Law

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.


citations & Citators


A legal citation is a reference to a specific law or case.  The works below provide examples:

  • Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation - Ref Desk KF 245 .U54
    A complete explanation of the legal citation system.
  • Introduction to Basic Legal Citation - Created by Peter W. Martin, Cornell Law School.


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.

  • Shepard's Acts & Cases by Popular Name: Federal & State - Ref KF 80 .S5; Gives official citations for cases and laws by their popular names
  • Shepard's Maine Citations - Spec Coll Maine KFM 59 .S53
    Tracks Maine Supreme Judicial Court decisions.
  • LexisNexis>Legal>Shepards Citations - tracks U.S. court decisions, including decisions of Maine courts

topical law Information

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

  • National Indian Law Library

additional sources

To contact a Reference Librarian with questions, click here: Ask-a-Librarian

Created by: | Revised: 02/25/2014
5729 Fogler Library
University of Maine
Orono, ME 04469-5729
Phone: 207-581-1661 | Fax: 207-581-1653
© Copyright 2000-2014
The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469