Intelligence Law School - Course 1: Lesson 4.2.4 The U.S. Code

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4.2 Enactment and Publication of Federal Statutes

4.2.4 The U.S. Code

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4.2.4 The U.S. Code

The U.S. Code or a commercial code product will always be your first stop when researching statutory law because it’s the fastest way to find the most current version of the statutory text you’re researching.


Ø  Topical Structure: Plus it’s organized by topic so looking in the U.S. Code is also the easiest way to see other statutory law relevant to the topic you’re researching.

o   Just find the section you’re interested in, and then look at the other sections around your section.

o   Most of the time, they will be from the same act and may be highly relevant to your understanding of the section you’re researching. 

Ø  Comparison with United States Statutes at Large: The chronological publication of statutory law in the Statutes at Large is incredibly inefficient for research purposes.

o   Laws are constantly being repealed or updated or expanded. For example, the USA PATRIOT Act changed multiple sections of different acts going back to the National Security Act of 1947.

o   To be current on the law, you’d have to start back in 1789 and read every law passed up to the present to make sure you were current.

o   This is not a workable system, so after publication in the Statutes at Large, all statutes are then codified in the United States Code.

Ø  51 Titles: The U.S. Code arranges all statutes by topic.

o   The Code has 51 titles, which are arranged more or less alphabetically.[1]

o   New bound versions of the Code are published every 6 years,[2] but commercial publishers like LexisNexis and Westlaw keep their online Code’s perpetually up-to-date. 



[1] There are presently 51 titles of the U.S. Code. Title 51—National and Commercial Space Programs—was enacted by Section 3 of Public Law 111-314 on December 18, 2010. 124. Stat. 3328. See United States Code Document, Office of the Law Revision Counsel, United States House of Representatives,; see also generally Cassandra L. Foley, Congressional Research Serv., Federal Statutes: What They Are and Where to Find Them (2009), available at (“In the U.S.C., statutes are grouped by subject into fifty titles. Each title is further organized into chapters and sections. A listing of the titles is provided in each volume. Unlike the statutes, the Code is cited by title and section number (e.g., 28 U.S.C. Sec. (or §) 534 refers to Section 534 of Title 28). Notes at the end of each section provide additional information, including statutory origin of the Code provision (both by public law number and Statutes at Large citation), the effective date(s), a brief citation and discussion of any amendments, and cross references to related provisions.”).

[2] See Cassandra L. Foley, Congressional Research Serv., Federal Statutes: What They Are and Where to Find Them (2009), available at (“The United States Code is the official government codification of federal legislation. This resource has been printed by the United States Government Printing Office since 1926. The U.S.C. is published every six years and supplemented by annual cumulative bound volumes. The latest edition is dated 2006.”).


© 2012 David Alan Jordan. All rights reserved.