Intelligence Law School - Course 1: Lesson 4.2.5 Annotated Codes [HTML-Only]

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4.2 Enactment and Publication of Federal Statutes

4.2.5 Annotated Codes

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4.2.5 Annotated Codes

The U.S. Code is also the best place to start because, if you have access to an annotated code product like the U.S. Code Service by Lexis Publishing, or U.S. Code Annotated by West, you’ll be able to get:

Ø  The most recent version of the statutory text as amended by subsequent statutes;

Ø  Loads of case notes for important judicial opinions interpreting your code section; as well as

Ø  Cross-references to a variety of other primary and secondary authority relevant to your subject matter.[1]


Annotated Codes are dynamite!

They truly are a lawyer’s best friend—especially if you’re just a poor public interest attorney fighting the system on behalf of the people and can’t afford electronic research on sites like LexisNexis and Westlaw.


Ø  Bob Berring’s Legal Research Maxim: There is one of sacrosanct rule of legal research that every lawyer should make their mantra.

o   It comes from Professor Bob Berring—he’s a legal research guru and law professor at UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall Law School.

o   His principal research maxim is simple: Find someone who has done the work for you.

o   In a country with as many lawyers as the United States, there will almost always be some expert compilation or detailed analysis that has already been produced that you can rely on.

§  Typically, the best resources are produced through hundreds, sometimes even thousands, of hours of somebody else’s diligent effort.

§  Usually these sources are made available to others on the Internet or in law libraries.

§  Finding them will eliminate countless hours of unnecessary tedium from your personal work load during any legal research project.


Annotated Codes are exactly what this maxim is talking about.

They’re an invaluable research tool because lawyers at LexisNexis and West have spent hundreds of thousands of hours annotating each and every code provision, making sure they find case notes for every relevant case and cross-references to relevant secondary authority.

The two major annotated codes available are produced by LexisNexis and Thomson/West.


Ø  U.S. Code Service: The Lexis version is called the U.S. Code Service (U.S.C.S.); and

Ø  U.S. Code Annotated: Thomson/West’s is called the U.S. Code Annotated (U.S.C.A.).


They both claim superiority to one another for different reasons, but they both are exceptional resources, and most major law libraries you visit will have entire sets of both products as well as the raw U.S. Code produced by the Government Printing Office.



[1] See Cassandra L. Foley, Congressional Research Serv., Federal Statutes: What They Are and Where to Find Them (2009), available at (“The United States Code Annotated (U.S.C.A.) published by Thomson/West and the United States Code Service (U.S.C.S.) published by LexisNexis are unofficial, privately published editions of the Code. These publications include the text of the Code, annotations to judicial decisions interpreting the Code sections, cross references to the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) provisions and historical notes. Both also provide references to selected secondary sources. For example, the U.S.C.S. includes selected law review articles. Bound volumes of the U.S.C.A. and the U.S.C.S. are updated by annual inserts (“pocket parts”) and supplements. These updates include newly codified laws and annotations. Both U.S.C.A. and U.S.C.S. issue pamphlets containing copies of recently enacted public laws arranged in chronological order. Since there is a time lag in publishing the official U.S.C., codified versions of new enactments usually appear first in the U.S.C.A. and U.S.C.S. supplements.”).


© 2012 David Alan Jordan. All rights reserved.