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What are statutes?
Statutes are created by the U.S. congress and by state legislatures and attempt to lay out the ground rules of “the law”.
Besides federal and state statutes, there are local laws usually known as “ordinances.” Ordinances can be enacted by cities, towns, or villages.
Determining Terms and Concepts
If you aren’t certain the words or ‘terms of art’ that describe your topic you may need to consult some background sources such as a legal encyclopedia or dictionary. This book is available both in print and on the legal research databases.
Statutory Research Tip
An annotated code is your best one-stop shopping for statutory research. Not only does it arrange the statutes by subject, but it also contains case citations.
Missouri Statutes: Vernon’s Annotated Missouri Statutes (VAMS) contains the text of the statutes PLUS references to case law, relevant secondary sources, and more. But remember for citation purposes you will use the official state publication of the statutes: Revised Statutes of Missouri (RSMO).
Federal Statutes: United States Code Annotated (USCA) or United States Code Service (USCS) contain the text of the statutes PLUS references to case law, relevant secondary sources, and more. But remember for citation purposes you will use the official federal publication of the code: United States Code (USC).
To locate statutes by citation or by topic, you first want to find the appropriate resource for your jurisdiction. Are you looking for a federal or state statute?
States have the power to create law in many areas, including issues dealing with family, personal injury, property, businesses, and estates and trusts.
Many areas of the law are covered by both federal and state statutes, including employment, consumer protection, and more.
To add to the complexity there are areas that only federal statutes cover, including bankruptcy, copyright, social security and more.
Determining Jurisdiction – Tutorial
For a more detailed overview of jurisdiction view the tutorial at https://tegr.it/y/110zf.
Publication of Federal Statutes
Federal laws are published in three formats: slip law, session laws and codes.
1. Slip Laws
Public and private laws are also known as slip laws. A slip law is an official publication of the law and is competent evidence admissible in all state and Federal courts and tribunals of the United States. Public laws affect society as a whole, while private laws affect an individual, family, or small group.
After the President signs a bill into law, it is assigned a law number, legal statutory citation (public laws only), and prepared for publication as a slip law. Private laws receive their legal statutory citations when they are published in the United States Statutes at Large.
Location: Slip laws are available at the MU Law Library in Bank 2 on the first floor. They are also available online.
2. U.S. Statutes at Large
The Statutes at Large are session laws – the permanent collection of all laws and resolutions enacted during each session of Congress. It contains the slips laws in chronological order of publication.
Location: The U.S. Statutes at Large is available at the MU Law Library in Bank 2 on the first floor. They are also available online.
3. Code: A code organizes law by subject and is the most useful format for research. It divides the law by broad subjects into 50 titles. Statutory codes appear in official and unofficial versions. The federal codes are available at the MU Law Libary in Bank 2 on the first floor.
United States Code
The United States Code is the official version of the federal statutes and is used by lawyers for citation purposes. The U.S. Code does not include regulations issued by executive branch agencies, decisions of the Federal courts, treaties, or laws enacted by State or local governments.
United States Code Annotated
Unofficial version of the United States Code. Enhanced with extensive annotations following the code section provide citations to court cases, federal regulations, law review articles, and legislative history documents. More current than the official version. Updated with annual supplements called “pocket parts” and periodic supplemental pamphlets. Available on Westlaw.
United States Code Service
Unofficial version of the United States Code. Enhanced with extensive annotations following the code section provide citations to court cases, federal regulations, law review articles, and legislative history documents. More current than the official version. Updated with annual supplements called “pocket parts” and periodic supplemental pamphlets. Available on Lexis.
Publication of Missouri Statutes
Like federal laws, state laws are available in three basic formats: slip laws, session laws, and codes.
1. Slip Laws: Bills Truly Agreed To and Finally Passed are signed in open session by the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tem of the Senate. Those bills are available online. The Governor has fifteen days to act on a bill if it is sent during the legislative session; and forty-five days if the legislature has adjourned or has recessed for a thirty day period. Legislative actions by the Governor are available online.
2. Session Laws: Laws of Missouri Laws enacted in the Missouri legislature during each biennial session are referred to as “acts” and are numbered chronologically as they are enacted. At the end of each session, they are published in a hard bound set entitled Laws of Missouri and are known as the Missouri session laws. Location: Laws of Missouri is available in print at the MU Law Library in MO-REF.
Missouri Revised Statutes (RSMO) Published by Missouri Committee on Legislative Research. The official codification of all the laws that are in effect at the end of each legislative session. It is printed at the end of each biennial session of the legislature, and is available in both hard cover and paperback. The statutes are arranged by subject and numbered decimally. The subject index is at the end of the last volume of the set. It is now “supplemental,” updated with pocket parts. Location: RSMO is available in print at the MU Law Library in the Reserve Room and MO-REF. It is also available online.
Vernon’s Annotated Missouri Statutes (VAMS)
Published by Thompson West, the set contains the statutes of MIssouri with additional notes of decisions of the state and federal courts interpreting the laws, the Constitution and court rules of Missouri. It is supplemented by annual pocket parts, pamphlets and Vernon’s Missouri Legislative Service. Location: VAMS is available at the MU Law Library in the Reserve Room and MO-REF. It is also available on Westlaw.
Index, House and Senate Bills, and Joint Resolutions
Published by Missouri Committee on Legislative Research and Office of Administration. This indexes bills by subject, bill number, and sponsor for each piece of proposed legislation in the Missouri General Assembly. Each volume covers one session. Location: This index is available online.