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How Do I: Do Legal Research?: Statutory Law

How to search for legal cases and materials, without being a lawyer..

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What is "statutory law"?

Statutory law in the United States consists of the laws passed by the legislature. For the federal government, then, the statutory law is the acts passed by the United States Congress. [For a more information on how this is done, see Learn About the Legislative Process]. For the states, it is the acts passed by their individual legistlatures. [For an explanation of the process in West Virginia, see How a Bill Becomes Law.

There are two kinds of acts: Public Laws and Private Laws. Public laws relate to the general public, while private laws relate to specific institutions or individuals. Public laws are the ones which you will typically need to research.

Most states publish their own laws online; some publish official print volumes while others have commercial publishers produce them. These may be called "Chapter Laws" or "Session Laws". In all states, most (but not all) statutes are "codified," that is, integrated into the state's Code of laws by subject..