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CJS 103 - Eco-Justice (Schneider)

Picking a Law

Need Help Finding a Law?

Making Sure You're Looking at the Right Law

Public Laws

There is a high likelihood that there will be similar-sounding laws to the one you have chosen. To make sure you're looking at the correct one in the database, you want to first find the Public Law number for the one you have chosen. A public law number is the unique identifier that distinguishes each statute from another. It looks like this: PL 107-56 or Pub. L. 107-56. The first number is the congressional session when the law was passed. The second number identifies the order in the session that it was passed. The example above was a law passed in the 107th congress (2001-2002), and it was the 56th law passed in that session.

Where to Find Public Law Numbers

Most noteworthy legislation has a Wikipedia entry written for it. Those entries will include citation information for the law. The example above is the public law for the USA Patriot Act. I searched for that name in Wikipedia to find the citation information. This will also show you the Statute At Large citation, another unique identifier for this law. Statute at Large show the user where each law fits inside the larger US Code. It organizes laws contextually instead of chronologically. Either citation can be used in our legislative databases, but I find it easier to use the public law number.

**Note: Using Wikipedia to find the the legal citation is an acceptable use of the site. You should not be citing Wikipedia as a source in your papers. Only use it as a way to find credible sources that you can site.

Wikipedia Page for Patriot Act

Finding Legislation

Once you've found the citation information for your selected legislation, you can use this database to get access to information about it. There should be similar information on Proquest's Congressional Publications and Congress.gov, so choosing a database is personal choice. However Congress.gov only has digitized information since the mid-70s.

Using Congress.gov

The US Congress website makes available a lot of the information you will need for this assignment. This walkthrough will illustrate how to get to that information, using the example statute above. Not everything will be found on this page. You may also have to reference other sources to find some of the required information.

Start at the Congres.gov site. Enter your public law into the search box at the top of the page and change the search parameters from Current Congress to Legislation using the dropdown menu to the left of the search box. There is a specific format to enter the public law - Congressional Session "PL" Law Number. For our example, it will look like: 107PL56

congress.gov search box

 


There should only be one result that comes up based on that search. Double check on the name to make sure it's the correct law. This will be just below the linked top line. The information at the very top will either be the House or Senate resolution number, which indicates the house where it originated. Click on that number to see the record for that law.

Results for Search

 


This page gives you detailed information about the law. The overview at the top will give you:

  • Who sponsored the legislation
  • If it became a law and when

Record Page for our Statute.

 

The Tabs below the overview will give you more detailed information about the law

  • Summary:
    • This will give you the full name of the law
    • It will also give excerpts from that law that detail it's purpose
    • You may be able to find the agencies involved in this section
  • Text:
    • This is the full text of the law. Many are quite long and detailed
    • Between this text and the summary, you should be able to summarize the law for your paper
    • You may be able to find the agencies involved in this section
  • Actions
    • This is a timeline of the movements for this law, starting at introduction.
    • This will  also tell you which house introduced the bill.
    • It will list the votes
  • Titles: This will list the full and short titles of the bill/law
  • Amendments:
    • This will list any amendments that were added to the bill
    • You will need to click the link to the congressional record to read the text of each amendment
  • Cosponsors: This tab lists the names of others who added their name to the bill
  • Committees: This lists the names of the committees who reviewed the bill
  • Related Bills: This lists connected legislation that impacts the way that it's implemented.

Once you've found the citation information for your selected legislation, you can use this database to get access to information about it. There should be similar information on Proquest's Congressional Publications and Congress.gov, so choosing a database is personal choice. However Congress.gov only has digitized information since the mid-70s.

Using Proquest Congressional Publications

Congressional Pulblications makes available a lot of the information you will need for this assignment. This walkthrough will illustrate how to get to that information, using the example statute above. Not everything will be found in this database. You may also have to reference other sources to find some of the required information.

Go to Congressional Publications (see link above) and enter the Public Law into the search box. Make sure to deselect the "search all content types" box on the left side of the page and select Bills and Laws. Click Search.

advanced search and selecting specific search filters.

 

This takes you to the results page. Different results will present different information:

  • The Top Result will likely be the full text of the law. Make sure it says Public Law in the entry.
  • Below that will be the Bill Profile.
  • Make sure they both refer to the right law and then select both links.

 

Identifying a public law by Law number

What You Get from Each Page

Public Law

  • This gives you quick access to the citation and full name of the law
  • This will also link you to the full text of the law for you to read and summarize. This helps with the purpose of the legislation and the agencies involved.
  • This will also give you the date the law was adopted.

Bill Profile

  • The sponsors tab lists sponsors and co-sponsors of the bill
  • The Overview tab gives you to a summary of the law for you to read and summarize. This helps with the purpose of the legislation and the agencies involved.
  • The Actions tab shows you a timeline of how the bill became a law, including vote totals. This tab will also list any amendments that were made. To read the text of those amendments, click the Congressional Record link listed for each.

Social Sciences Librarian

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Grace Allbaugh
Contact:
Milner Office: Room 415
To make an appointment to use Milner services in the building, please email me.

Schroeder Hall Room 432
Thursdays, 2:30-4:30 PM
No appointment necessary.
(Not in Schroeder office currently. Email me with any questions)
(309) 438-5313

Law Librarian / Data Services Librarian

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Chad Kahl
he / him / his
Contact:
Office: Milner 419
(309) 438-3454
Website
Subjects: Law, Legal Studies