The Law School Magazine  ·  Spring 2010 :

5-minute Classroom: Tips from Moritz Librarians Statutory and Regulatory Surveys

By - Spring 2010
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If you ever spent hours digging through numerous state and federal codes to find the law on a particular issue in multiple jurisdictions, you will appreciate the value of statutory and regulatory surveys (often referred to as 50 State Surveys). For a specific legal issue, such as lemon laws, statutory surveys list any applicable federal code sections and state statutory code sections across all 50 states. So a statutory survey shows where to find that lemon law in each state statutory code, from Alabama to Wyoming. Similar surveys are also available for regulations. Although not available on every legal issue, a growing collection of statutory surveys are available from a variety of sources, including both Westlaw and Lexis in addition to freely available sources online.

An excellent freely available source of statutory and legislative surveys is the National Conference of State Legislatures’ 50-State Legislative Tracking Web Resources, available at www.ncsl.org/programs/lis/lrl/50statetracking.htm. Focusing on current issues facing state legislatures, the NCSL compiles state surveys on a variety of high profile topics such as mortgage lending practices, civil unions, and domestic partnerships laws. In addition to the NCSL surveys, advocacy groups may track laws and legislation across the states on issues central to their advocacy efforts. If there is such a group that might track a legal issue of interest to you, check their web site for a possible survey.

Both Westlaw and Lexis also offer good collections of statutory surveys. More comprehensive than freely available resources, the surveys on Westlaw and Lexis span a wide range of legal topics, from bankruptcy to telecommunications. Additionally, both services are also beginning to include regulatory surveys, as well as statutory surveys.  Many of the statutory surveys on Westlaw derive from the National Survey of State Laws, 6th edition which is available in print at many law libraries. And don’t forget ALR (American Law Reports), which is available on both Lexis and Westlaw. Although ALR focuses on surveying case law across jurisdictions on specific legal issues, the annotations often include statutes as well.

Many books and treatises also contain surveys of laws. For example, BNA publishes several state surveys on labor law issues, such as Employee Duty of Loyalty, a State-by-State Survey by Brian Malsberger. Additionally, treatises may contain statutory surveys. For example, in the treatise Labor and Employment Law by N. Peter Lareau et al, available on Lexis and in print, Chapter 175 contains a compilation of state parental and medical leave laws.

HeinOnline, a subscription service available at heinonline.org, provides access to the Subject Compilations of State Laws by Cheryl Rae Nyberg.  For a given legal issue, the Subject Compilations of State Laws lists the statutory surveys that have been published in various sources, including appellate briefs, books, Westlaw surveys, and NCSL surveys. Although the Subject Compilations does not provide direct access to these surveys, it does give a comprehensive list of the surveys available on a given legal issue. The Subject Compilations of State Laws is available in print as well as being available on HeinOnline.

Although there are a number of great resources to help you quickly locate laws in multiple jurisdictions, remember to always update any statutory references that you find to make sure that it is current.

Katherine Hall joined the Moritz Law Library in 2001 and is currently assistant director for public services. In addition to coordinating reference services for the faculty, students, and members of the public, she also participates in collection development. She teaches a section of the first-year Introduction to Legal Research course and the upper level Advanced Electronic Legal Research course.