You probably have encountered a situation where a particular statute does not completely answer your legal issues, and you have needed to turn to administrative regulations promulgated by a governmental agency to complete the research. With space considerations being a reality in many law offices, these regulations can be a large addition to a library collection. However, on both the federal and state levels, there are numerous freely available online options that provide codified regulations and proposed rules to assist with your research needs
The Government Printing Office provides a web site called GPO Access (www.gpoaccess.gov) that provides access to several government publications, including the United States Code, the Congressional Record, and administrative regulations. For regulations, GPO Access includes the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) from 1996 and the Federal Register from 1994. Keep in mind that these are the official versions, and the CFR in particular is only updated yearly when the new editions are published. For those that want an updated version of the CFR, GPO Access also includes a feature called e-CFR, which is a currently updated, unofficial version of the Code.
The Government Printing Office is working on a new database for its collection known as FDsys (www.gpo.gov/fdsys). This new database provides more user-friendly search capabilities for the documents published by the government, but is still in its early stages as more documents are being included. Currently on FDsys you can find the Code of Federal Regulations from 2000 and the Federal Register from 1994.
There are several other governmental web sites that provide useful tools for accessing regulations. Regulations.gov (regulations.gov) is a partnership between 25 agencies to increase access and participation in the rule making process. This site allows the user to examine and track proposed and final regulations through e-mail alerts, and also provides the capability to submit comments online. Another helpful resource is Tomorrow’s Federal Register provided by the National Archives (archives.gov/federal-register/public-inspection). This feature includes information on what rules will be included in the Federal Register on future dates.
If you need to research regulations on the state level, there are also resources available to freely access these materials. Many states provide access to both their codified and proposed regulations online, and can often be found on a secretary of state’s web site. A central repository for the links to codified regulations and registers for all 50 states can be found at the web site for the Administrative Codes and Registers Section of the National Association of Secretaries of State (administrativerules.org). Another option for state regulation research is Casemaker, which is a partnership with state bar associations to provide basic legal research to members of the bar. Casemaker is currently available from 28 state bar associations, including Ohio, and can be accessed through your bar association’s web site.