Intelligence Law School - Course 1: Lesson 4.2.3 Slip Laws, Session Laws, and the U.S. Statutes at Large [HTML-Only]


««« Previous Lesson  |  Next Lesson »»»

LESSON 4: STATUTORY LAW


4.2 Enactment and Publication of Federal Statutes


4.2.3 Slip Laws, Session Laws, and the U.S. Statutes at Large


Lecture Audio



Annotated Lecture Transcript

4.2.3 Slip Laws, Session Laws, and the U.S. Statutes at Large

So, after bills are passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by the President, they become Acts—enactments of Congress.

These Acts are published immediately as individual pamphlets called “Slip Laws.”[1]

After this initial publication, all Slip Laws are published in permanent volumes known as “Session Laws,” which are essentially just a chronological publication of all Acts passed by Congress in each legislative session.

In the U.S. federal system, these Session Laws are called the “United States Statutes at Large.”[2]

This version of the law actually represents the official positive law,[3] so if later there turns out to be some inconsistency in the printing, the Statutes at Large version is the prevailing version.[4]

The Statutes at Large prevail in all cases except when you’re dealing with a Title of the U.S. Code that has been enacted into positive law.[5]

This doesn’t apply to Title 50, which is the most important Title for purposes of intelligence law, so the Statutes at Large version is going to be the official version of whatever statute you’re working with in Title 50.

 

Ø  Practice Pointer: The truth is that even though it’s the official version of the law, you are almost never going to use the United States Statutes at Large in practice—at least not as a first stop on your research tour. You’re always going to look law up in the U.S. Code.

 

Footnotes

[1] See Cassandra L. Foley, Congressional Research Serv., Federal Statutes: What They Are and Where to Find Them (2009), available at https://intelligencelaw.com/files/pdf/law_library/crs/RL30812_1-30-2009.pdf (“When Congress passes a law, it may amend or repeal earlier enactments or it may write on a clean slate. Newly enacted laws are published chronologically, first as separate statutes in “slip law” form and later cumulatively in the bound volumes of the Statutes at Large. Additionally, most statutes are also incorporated into the United States Code (U.S.C.). The U.S.C. and its commercial counterparts, United States Code Service (U.S.C.S.) and United States Code Annotated (U.S.C.A.) take the federal statutes that are of a general and permanent nature and arrange them by subject into fifty separate titles. As the statutes that underlie the Code are revised, superseded, or repealed, the provisions of the Code are updated to reflect these changes.”).

[2] See Cassandra L. Foley, Congressional Research Serv., Federal Statutes: What They Are and Where to Find Them (2009), available at https://intelligencelaw.com/files/pdf/law_library/crs/RL30812_1-30-2009.pdf (“Slip laws (both public laws and private laws) are accumulated, corrected and published at the end of each session of Congress in a series of bound volumes entitled Statutes at Large. The laws are cited by volume and page number (e.g., 96 Stat. 1259 refers to page 1259 of volume 96 of the Statutes at Large). Researchers are most likely to resort to this publication when they are interested in the original language of a statute or in statutes that are not codified in the Code, such as appropriations or private laws.”).

[3] 1 U.S.C. § 112 (2006) (“The Archivist of the United States shall cause to be compiled, edited, indexed, and published, the United States Statutes at Large, which shall contain all the laws and concurrent resolutions enacted during each regular session of Congress; all proclamations by the President in the numbered series issued since the date of the adjournment of the regular session of Congress next preceding; and also any amendments to the Constitution of the United States proposed or ratified pursuant to article V thereof since that date, together with the certificate of the Archivist of the United States issued in compliance with the provision contained in section 106b of this title. In the event of an extra session of Congress, the Archivist of the United States shall cause all the laws and concurrent resolutions enacted during said extra session to be consolidated with, and published as part of, the contents of the volume for the next regular session. The United States Statutes at Large shall be legal evidence of laws, concurrent resolutions, treaties, international agreements other than treaties, proclamations by the President, and proposed or ratified amendments to the Constitution of the United States therein contained, in all the courts of the United States, the several States, and the Territories and insular possessions of the United States.”); see also 73 Am. Jur. 2d Statutes § 42 (2008) (“It is provided by federal statute that the United States Statutes at Large are legal evidence of laws, concurrent resolutions, treaties, international agreements other than treaties, proclamations by the President, and proposed or ratified amendments to the Constitution of the United States therein contained, in all the courts of the United States, the several states, and the territories and insular possessions of the United States.”).

[4] See 1 U.S.C. § 112 (2006); see also 73 Am. Jur. 2d Statutes § 42 (2008) (“Although the inclusion of a provision in the United States Code establishes the provision prima facie as a law of the United States, the Code does not prevail over the Statutes at Large when the two are inconsistent.”).

[5] See Cassandra L. Foley, Congressional Research Serv., Federal Statutes: What They Are and Where to Find Them (2009), available at https://intelligencelaw.com/files/pdf/law_library/crs/RL30812_1-30-2009.pdf (“the canvas upon which Congress works is often an updated, stand-alone version of an earlier public law (e.g., Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, as amended), and not the U.S. Code. On the “Titles of United States Code” page of the Code an asterisk appears next to some of the titles. The asterisks refer to a note that states: “This title has been enacted as positive law.” If the title is asterisked, the Code provides the authoritative version of the public law, as amended. For example, there is no asterisk beside Title 42 of the U.S.C. Thus, the provisions codified in Title 42 are not authoritative. Should there be a discrepancy, a court will accept the language in the Statutes at Large as the authoritative source and not the Code. It should be noted that there is no substantive difference between the language of the public law as published in the Statutes at Large and that of the Code.”).

 


© 2012 David Alan Jordan. All rights reserved.