Intelligence Law School - Course 1: Lesson 4.1.3 What is a Statute?

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4.1 Introduction to Statutory Law

4.1.3 What is a Statute?

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4.1.3 What is a Statute?

So what is a “statute?”


Well, statutes are laws enacted by the legislative branch of government.[1]


Ø  Clarification: Congressional Statutes vs. Administrative Regulations: “Legislative rules” or “regulations” promulgated by agencies are also sometimes lumped together with congressional enactments under the rubric of “statutes” or “statutory law,”[2] but this is imprecise.[3]

o   For purposes of this course, I’m never going to refer to administrative rules as “statutes.”

o   Administrative law is a separate topic that is very important to U.S. intelligence law, so I’m going to keep congressional statutes and administrative regulations separate.

o   I’ll be talking about agency rules in the next section when we get to administrative law.

o   For now, when I talk about “statutory law” I’m talking only about statutes enacted by Congress.


As I just mentioned in the last lesson, Article I of the Constitution vests Congress with the legislative power of the United States.

Congress is the only branch of government with the general constitutional authority to create new law.

The blackletter laws passed by Congress are statutes.

These statutes, together with the judicial decisions interpreting them, make up our 2nd of 3 categories of law—“Statutory Law.”  


Remember the 3 categories of law:

Ø    Constitutional Law;

Ø    Statutory Law; and

Ø    Administrative Law.


Ø  Category 1, constitutional law is the most powerful but the smallest category of law in U.S. intelligence law.

o   The text of the Constitution is only 20 pages or so, or about 7000 words total.

o   The number of pages of judicial opinions interpreting it is much larger, but only the holdings of those opinions represent "law."

o   It’s a lot of law, but not nearly as much as our current category.


Ø  Category 2, statutory law, is the second most powerful category of law, and it is much more plentiful than constitutional law.

o   The U.S. Code comprises tens of thousands of pages of codified statutes.


Ø  Category 3, administrative law, is the third and final category of law.

o   It is the least powerful but the most plentiful.

o   We’ll be talking about all the different types of administrative rules in the next lesson—Lesson 5.


For now, we’re focused solely on category 2:  “Statutory Law.”

It is perhaps the most important area of law for practical purposes because it creates all federal agencies and defines all of their powers as well as the powers of their leadership.

The legal force of all administrative law must derive from some form of statutory authority given by Congress to the agency or its top officials.



[1] See 73 Am. Jur. 2d Statutes § 1 (2008).

[2] Legislative rules or regulations are administrative rules created by an agency pursuant to a delegation of lawmaking authority by Congress and promulgated according to applicable statutory procedures. Regulations are sometimes referred to as “statutes” because, like Congressional statutes, they are blackletter statements of legal rules that carry the full force and effect of law and are created by administrative agencies when acting in a legislative capacity.

[3] See 73 Am. Jur. 2d Statutes § 1 (2008).


© 2012 David Alan Jordan. All rights reserved.