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Law

How to find cases, statutes, regulations, and other law-related material

Introduction to Statutes

Statutes are the laws passed by the Congress or state legislature. A statute, also called an act, legislation, or, confusingly, a law, is often a broad statement of principle that is interpreted and applied by case law or implemented through administrative regulations.

Statutes begin as bills and when they pass into law are first published as slip laws or session laws. At the federal level, this version of the law is assigned a Public Law number and published in theStatutes at Large. Eventually, laws are divided and distributed in a collection of laws arranged by subject, like the United States Code or Connecticut General Statutes.

At this point, each section of the original law takes on its own identity, signified by a new number, and may be amended independently of the other sections.

For an in-depth explanation, see How Our Laws Are Made. Connecticut laws follow a similar process.

So which one is THE law?

Well, it depends. Do you want the law as it passed, or the law as it is now?

If you want the law as it initially passed, unchanged by subsequent amendments, then you're looking for the slip or session law.

If you want to know what the law is now, with any amendments made since passage, you're looking for the United States Code or a state code. Be aware that laws are frequently divided into subject areas and distributed throughout the Code.

Finding Connecticut Statutes & Bills

Begin at the Connecticut General Assembly Home Page (http://www.cga.ct.gov/)

  • Bill tracking: Scroll down until you see the Bill Tracking box. You need to register to receive tracking information.
  • Current bills by subject: Click on Bill Info and select one of the search methods.
  • Recent bills:  Click on File Copies: All, then click on the bill number to see actions taken. Click on html or pdf to see the text of the bill.
  • Session laws: Click on Bill Info and select Basic Bill and Document Search. Select Public and Special Acts from the Laws and Related Documents menu.
  • Statutes: Click on Statutes. Select Search or Browse.
    • If you use Search, select Statutes Section Text from the Database(s) menu.
    • If you use Browse, you'll see a clickable table of contents of the general stats arranged by title (subject area).
  • Legislative history: Click on Bill Info and select Advanced Bill and Document Search. In the Database(s) menu select any or all of: Public Hearing Transcripts, Journals, OLR Reports, PRI Reports, and Session Transcripts.

Federal and State Statutes

Tracking a Federal Bill

Congress.gov
Searchable by keyword, sponsor, bill number, etc. Current Congress.

Legislative History

As a bill becomes a law, it passes through many hands. At each step, documents are generated: bills, hearings, committee reports, other bills, House or Senate documents, prints, and so on. These documents comprise the law's legislative history and are used by judges and lawyers to determine legislative intent when interpreting and applying statutes in court cases.

Below is an artificially tidy sketch of the federal process with the documents produced at each step, a sample document number, and links to help you locate the documents. The state process works much the same way, but most of the documents are available through the General Assmebly portal or at the state library in Hartford.

Notice that many of the different kinds of documents have very similar numbers. Because of this it's vital that you note both the numbers and the abbreviations of the source: 107-111 could be a bill number, hearing number, a public law number, or a House or Senate Document. Without the HR, SR, S Hrg, H Hrg, PL, SDoc, or HDoc, you'll never find what you're looking for.

Idea introduced: The idea is written as a bill or resolution and introduced to either the House of Representatives or Senate. 

The bill is referred to a committee. Committees or subcommittees hold hearings, accept documents, report favorably or unfavorably, and advise changes.

  • Document: Hearings 
  • Sample number: S-Hrg. 107-111
  • Where to find Hearings:
  • Document: Prints and Documents
  • Sample numbers H.Doc, 107-34
  • Where to find Prints and Documents:
  • Document: Reports
  • Sample number: H. Rpt. 105-710
  • Where to find Reports:

 

Congress debates the bill and votes, both of which are recorded in the Congressional Record

 

Bill becomes a law. New laws are first published in paper as slip laws and given Public Law numbers, then published in Statutes at Large, and finally published in the US Code

  • Document: Statutes at Large, Public Law
  • Sample numbers: 115 Stat. 1425, PL 107-110
  • Where to find Public Laws and Statutes at Large:
  • Document: US Code
  • Sample number: 20 USC 1603 et seq
  • Where to find the US Code:

 

Or the President vetoes the law

  • Document: Vetoes are entered into the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents
  • Where to find the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents: