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. This guide provides resources for federal law; if you need state law, use the Maine Law guide.
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. Please contact us at Ask-a-Librarian with any questions.
American Jurisprudence (a lawyer's encyclopedia) - Ref KF 154 .A42, also searchable through LexisNexis Academic
Black's Law Dictionary - Ref Desk KF 156 .B35
Legal Information Institute - Cornell University Law School
Research and Reports - 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. Look at How a Bill Becomes a Law for an overview of the process.
Congressional Record - Gov Docs:Open X
The transcripts of Congressional sessions, the cumulative indexes include a section called "History of Bills and Resolutions."
ProQuest Congressional - Includes legislative histories from 1970
FDSys - 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
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.
Laws - Gov Docs: 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: AE 2.111
Laws passed by Congress by session, in chronological order. Cited by volume and page, i.e. 100 Stat 134.
ProQuest Congressional- 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
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, grouped by subject. Cited by title and section, i.e. 50 CFR 611.95.
LexisNexis> US Legal> Statutes, Codes & Regulations - can search either the Federal Register or the Code of Federal Regulations
Regulations.gov - can find (& submit) comments on proposed regulations,as well as find final regulations
Case law covers the decisions of the courts. These decisions fix the interpretation of the law and establish precedent.
LexisNexis> US 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 1990-2010 - Search by case name, keyword, or topic.
U.S. District Court, District of Maine - Opinions since 1996.
Google Scholar> Legal Opinions & Journals - Some federal and state decisions; switch from Articles to Legal documents
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.
Environmental Law in a Nutshell - Ref KF 3775 .F557
Intellectual Property & Unfair Competition in a Nutshell - Ref KF 1610 .M354
Internet Law in a Nutshell - Ref KF 390.5 .C6 R87
Labor Law in a Nutshell - Bus Ref KF 3369.3 .L39
CQ Weekly - A weekly news magazine about Congress, includes reports on bills and provides background information on issues.
LexisNexis> US 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
Maine Rules of Court: Federal - Ref KFM 529 .A195
Oyez Project - Audio/text of recent U.S. Supreme Court arguments
FindLaw - A variety of legal resources by category.
To contact a Reference Librarian with questions, click here: Ask-a-Librarian.