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Georgetown Law Library

Administrative Law Research Guide

This guide outlines the federal administrative process and materials generated.

Contents

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Administrative Decisions

Substantive agency decisions are potentially available in four different places:

  • full text online using Lexis and Westlaw
  • the agency's Web site
  • looseleaf services
  • officially published reports of decisions

Publication of administrative decisions is more fragmented than rules and regulations, and there is no one place where all such decisions are located. In fact, some agencies do not publish their decisions in any format. Appendix C of Finding the Law lists the official and commercial publications (including Lexis and Westlaw) covering administrative adjudications, interpretations, and opinions of the major regulatory agencies.

A. Online Services

For most agencies, online services provide the best access to administrative decisions, although retrospective coverage varies greatly by agency. Both Lexis and Westlaw have specialized databases corresponding to most areas of law subject to agency regulation. To determine what is available online for a particular agency, check the database guides or the online indexes.

B. Web

The Internet has greatly enhanced the ability to access many agency decisions in a timely and cost-effective manner. For those agencies that disseminate decisions on the Internet, decisions are usually indexed in several different ways with full text searching also available. In general, decisions that are available on the Internet are for recent years only. The University of Virginia Library has compiled a list of federal agency decisions available on the Internet.

C. Looseleaf Services

Most looseleaf services publish administrative decisions in their subject areas. The advantages to using looseleaf services over the official publications are (i) the decisions are usually available within a few weeks of the date of decision and (ii) the looseleaf services have extensive indexes and tables of cases to assist the researcher in finding relevant decisions. For older administrative decisions, looseleafs are often the only source. The Bluebook lists the major looseleaf services in Table 15 at pp. 518-22.

D. Officially Published Reports

Some agencies publish official reports of their decisions which resemble a standard court reporter series. The Bluebook lists the official administrative publications in Table 1.2 at pp. 236-48. Once you have the reporter's title, use GULLiver to find the call number. For most agencies, there are no indexes or digests to accompany the reporters.