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Georgetown Law Library

Constitutional Law and History Research Guide

This guide covers sources that are useful for researching Constitutional Law and Constitutional history.

Introduction

Each state has its own constitution by which it is governed.   State constitutions vary in length and scope and, unlike the federal Constitution, they are broader in scope and are amended more frequently (according to the NBER/University of Maryland State Constitution Project, there have been almost 150 state constitutions, they have been amended roughly 12,000 times). State constitutions can provide additional protections and rights not found in federal law; however, they cannot deprive a state's residents of their federal constitutional rights.

State constitutional research is similar to federal constitutional research; use the following resources as a starting point.  

State Constitutional Text

The statutory codes for each state contain the text of the current constitution and most states provide online access to its constitution on their websites. Please see our Research Guides by Jurisdiction for more information.

Constitutions of the United States, National and State (2d ed. 1974), KF4530 .C65 1974.
Also available online (GULC)
This seven-volume set provides complete and up-to-date access to American constitutions: the U.S. constitution, each of the 50 state constitutions, plus constitutions of 15 U.S. territories including the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Marshall Islands, Northern Mariana Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia. This source does not provide case annotations or commentary, though it may be useful in comparing provisions between states.

The series, Reference Guides To The State Constitutions Of The United States (1990-2010), covers more than 40 states and provides a summary of each state‰s constitutional history as well as a detailed analysis of the constitution, judicial interpretations, and references to books, articles, and other commentary on the constitutions.

State Constitutional History

Many states have had constitutional conventions and the proceedings of these conventions may be helpful in determining the intent or meaning of its provisions.

A comprehensive source for such documents is the LexisNexis microfiche collection, State Constitutional Conventions, Commissions, and Amendments, which contains materials published from 1776-1988 for all fifty states.  This set comes in five parts. Please see MCS 2 Micro for Part I (1776-1959) and Part II (1959-75) and KF4529 .S74 Micro for Part III (1959-76), Part IV (1959-78), and Part V (1979-88).

Prestatehood Legal Materials: A Fifty-State Research Guide (KF240 .P688 2005). This source provides resources for territorial and initial state constitutions.

Sources and Documents of United States Constitutions (KF4530 .S9), is a multivolume set that provides constitutional documents in chronological order for each state, including notes, editorial comments, bibliographies and indexes.

NBER/Maryland State Constitutions Project
This online source provides access to searchable and indexed texts to approximately 150 state constitutions made available since 1776 that have been amended roughly 12,000 times.

For additional resources on state constitutional research, use the following subject headings:

Constitutional amendments -- United States -- States
Constitutional conventions -- United States -- States
Constitutions, States -- United States
Constitutional conventions -- [State] (e.g. Constitutional conventions -- Pennsylvania)
[State]. Constitutional convention (e.g. Louisiana. Constitutional Convention)