This guide describes the organization of federal administrative law materials - and how to find them.
For a more in-depth discussion on administrative law, check out a treatise:
The Georgetown Law Library provides an excellent primer on administrative law research.
Administrative law research has three distinct but related content areas:
Administrative agencies draw authority from both Congress and the Executive. Agencies are typically created by Congress through the enactment of "enabling" statutes. Each agency is as unique in structure as its enabling statute. An agency may:
An agency may be called:
The Administrative Procedure Act requires that agencies follow certain steps when promulgaing rules:
Agency websites are a good place to begin your administrative law research. They often provide:
When navigating an agency website, look for headings like:
Executive materials are found in Title 3 of the CFR. Presidential Documents are found in the back of each day’s Federal Register. In addition, the White House website offers a great amount of information and access to Executive documents. The Office of the Federal Register published a Guide to the Rulemaking Process, which can help you to identify useful information about the types of documents generated as part of the rulemaking process.
Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents
Public Papers of the Presidents
Each issue of the modern Federal Register contains these sections:
Note: The first edition of the Federal Register was published March 14, 1936.
Sample Citation: Investment Adviser Performance Compensation, 77 Fed. Reg. 10,358 (Feb. 22, 2012) (to be codified at 17 C.F.R. pt. 275).
The CFR is organized into 50 titles which represent broad topics (typically bearing the name of the issuing agency). Chapters are further subdivided into parts covering specific regulatory areas. Large parts may be subdivided into subparts. All parts are organized in sections.
The CFR contains only the text of final rules and regulations themselves and does not include any of the very important summary, explanatory and documentary information published in the Federal Register. A Source Note at the beginning of each CFR part provides the Federal Register citation and date where the part was published. If a particular section was added or amended later, a separate source note will follow that section.
The CFR is updated by amendments and new rules and regulations in the Federal Register.
Note: The first edition of the CFR was published in 1939 containing regulations in force on June 1, 1938.
Citations to the CFR are most typically provided at either the part or section level.
Sample Citation: 17 C.F.R. § 275.250 (2011).
If you do not have a citation, ask yourself the following:
Agencies get their authority from Congress in the form of enabling statutes. If known, you can use the statute to find related regulations. One way is to look at the annotated statute for reference to regulations. If you are looking at a statute in a commercial database like Lexis, Westlaw or Bloomberg Law, then you can use a citator (like Shepard's or Key Cite) to locate current materials that cite your statute, such as regulations and secondary sources.
Use secondary sources (treatises, practice guides, law review articles, etc.) to learn more about the law governed by a particular regulation - and to learn more about the regulation itself.
Brainstorm about words that may be used to describe the relevant regulation. When keyword searching, try to anticipate the language used by the agency in writing the regulation.
The full CFR is printed once a year, with updates occurring one-quarter of the set at a time.
The CFR is published once a year; thus, any language in the latest published CFR must be checked for currency. Fortunately, most online sources are updated within 48 hours.
Often the fastest and easiest way to update regulations is to use a commercial provider like Lexis, Westlaw or Bloomberg Law. In addition, the e-CFR is updated regularly with information from the Federal Register.
Most loose-leaf services are updated daily or weekly and will usually indicate whether there are any proposed changes or final changes that have not yet taken effect. Several common databases include loose-leaf service materials, such as:
Federalregister.gov offers a useful tool for checking updates, or proposed changes, to current CFR sections. Under the Search Tab, select "Advanced Document Search." Scroll down until you see the field "Affecting CFR Part," and enter the relevant section.
To update using the LSA:
To establish the current validity of an existing regulation, find and read case law (in your jurisdiction) that cites your regulation. Look out for court constitutionality rulings and other holdings affecting the rule's "good law" status.
If you are looking at a regulation in a commercial database like Lexis, Westlaw or Bloomberg Law, then you can use a citator (like Shepard's or Key Cite) to locate current materials that cite the regulation, whether cases or secondary sources.
Administrative agencies act in a judicial-like capacity when issuing decisions that interpret and enforce regulations. These decisions are rarely gathered in one place, and some agencies do not publish decisions in any format. Here are some strategies for finding decisions:
Often, agencies will put administrative decisions on their website.
Most loose-leaf services publish administrative decisions in their subject areas. For older administrative decisions, loose-leafs are often the only source. The Bluebook lists the major loose-leaf services in T15. Several common databases include loose-leaf service materials, such as:
Some agencies publish official reports of their decisions. The Bluebook lists the official administrative publications in T1.2. Once you have the name of the reporter, you can search in the Harvard catalog, Hollis.
Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), you may request documents from administrative agencies.
The Federal Register contains most of the important summary, explanatory and documentary information on a rule. Thus looking at final rules in the Federal Register may offer more clues to the intent of a regulator than looking in the Code of Federal Regulations.
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