Statutes Research Guide

This research guide introduces basic concepts of statutory research, and provides introductory information on how to locate the statutes of U.S. federal and state jurisdictions.


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State Statutes

States also issue slip laws, session laws, and codes in print. These publications may go by different names in different jurisdictions. For example, below are the session laws and codes for the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. Note that some states have both an official version and unofficial code. Others have only one version.

Abbreviation What it Means
D.C. Stat. District of Columbia Session Law Service (session laws)
D.C. Code  West's District of Columbia Code (code)
D.C. Code (LexisNexis [year]) Lexis District of Columbia Code (code)
Md. Laws Laws of Maryland (session laws)
Md. Laws Maryland [subject] Code Annotated (code)
Va. Acts Acts of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia (session laws)
Va. Code Ann. Code of Virginia Annotated (code)

State laws are available on Lexis and Westlaw shortly after they are passed by the state legislature. In addition, most states have recent session laws and the state codes on the web. For example, you can locate them through the Legal Information Institute's listing of state laws by jurisdiction. However, this approach is best if you already have either a citation or some exact language from the statute. 

Citations and Sources: State

See our individual state research guides for information on each state's statutes. For complete listings of citations and sources of statutes for each state, refer to your Bluebook

Multi-jurisdictional Research: 50-State Surveys

Fifty-state surveys track a single topic across the statutes (or regulations) of all 50 states.  They usually take the form of a state-by-state table or chart containing the citations to the laws on the given topic in each state, but generally contain little-to-no analysis.  A 50-State Survey will not be available for all topics, but, if there is one, it can serve as a valuable starting point when conducting multi-jurisdictional research on a topic. Check each of the below sources to see if there is a 50-state-survey already compiled for your topic. (Note the date of any 50-state-surveys you find; some updating may be required.)

Note that you can sometimes find multi-state surveys or multi-state issue-trackers online, such as on the websites of law firms or organizations that are interested in tracking specific topics across jurisdictions.  For example, the National Conference of State Legislatures also often has multi-state surveys for statutes or legislation (bill-tracking, etc.) on select topics.

In addition, national treatises on a topic often have state-by-state treatments that will include citations to equivalent laws in each state (e.g. they may have sections or chapters on each state, state-by-state tables, or information in their appendices that describe the laws in each state).  Our Treatise Finders, while not comprehensive, are a great place to begin. Check both Lexis and Westlaw for relevant treatises, as each has unique titles.

Finally, American Law Reports (ALRs) also track a single, narrow legal issue across all U.S. jurisdictions. They typically include substantive analysis and useful research tools (such as a Table of Laws and cross-references to other secondary sources and research tools). ALRs are available on both Westlaw and Lexis.