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You believe there may be one or more statutes that govern the issues you are researching. What is the best way to locate them?
What is your jurisdiction? Obviously, if you are dealing with an Indiana law problem, you will not find Indiana statutes in Kansas statutory materials, and vice versa. Determine the jurisdiction involved in your problem, and then go to the statutory materials for that jurisdiction. (We say "jurisdiction" in the singular here, but there are cases in which more than one jurisdiction may be involved. Analyse your problem well.)
Statutory materials come in two major forms: (1) sets of materials generically called "session laws" and (2) the codified form of these same laws. Large, ongoing sets of "session laws" publish statutes one after another in no subject order, each statute as a single entity "fresh from enactment" by the legislature .... Public Law No. 1, followed by P.L. 2, then P.L. 3, then 4, etc. There is no cumulation; the statutes enacted in 1987 will be in the 1987 volume(s), the 1988 statutes in the 1988 volume(s), the 1989 statutes in the 1989 volume(s), etc.
In the codified form of the statutes, some body of compilers has gathered together all of the general, public statutes currently in force and has organized them by subject ("titles"). It makes no difference when any statute was enacted; if the statute is still in force, it is included in the codification with all the amendments the legislature may have added to it over the years following its original enactment. When passed, any one statute may deal with a variety of subjects. The compilers may place several parts of a single statute in title X of the code, while other parts (dealing with different topics) may be placed in title Y, and other parts in title Z, etc.
Most problems deal with the law currently in force. If you want the statutory law now in force, go to your jurisdiction's current code (preferably an annotated code; more on this below). Codes are normally organized by title and section numbers, but there may be variations such as section numbers alone, or named titles divided into sections (example: REAL PROPERTY, section 305.7).
SUBJECT SEARCHES: If you seek the statute(s) on a particular topic, enter the code through its index, searching A to Z under any relevant subject words. (For help, SEE: Pathfinder on Determining Search Words.) Don't forget, there may be supplementary index material in the pocket part at the back of the index volume(s).
Now, go to the code's main volumes, locating your material under title and section numbers given in the index.
POPULAR NAME SEARCHES: If you happen to know the popular name of your statute (example: the "Taft-Hartley Act" or the "McCarran Walter Act"), find the TABLES volume(s), usually near the end of your code, and locate the Popular Name Table(s). A popular name table is arranged A through Z by popular name. In our example, if you look under "T" for Taft-Hartley, you should find that statute's citation (title and section numbers in the code).
CONVERSION FROM "SESSION LAW" CITE TO CODE CITE: If you happen to know the year in which your statute was enacted as well as its public law number, you can find the codified version of the statute, again through the TABLES volume(s) that accompany the code. Find the conversion tables that provide cross-references from session law (usually a year and public law number) to the titles and sections of the code where that same statute is codified. Now, look in the code under the title and section numbers given.
CONVERSION FROM CODE CITE BACK TO "SESSION LAW" CITE: At the end of each section in the code, one finds the date(s) and public law numbers of the "session laws" that are now before you in codified (subject-arrangement) form.
After finding a reference in the indexes or tables, go to the title and section numbers in the main portion of the code set. Following title and section numbers, you will find certain materials printed in somewhat heavy black print (usually a paragraph or two). This is the actual statutory language as enacted by the legislature. In any "annotated" code, you will find "annotations" (references to court decisions) following the statutory language. Each annotation paragraph will tell you something about a case that applied or interpreted this statutory section. Each paragraph will end with the case name and citation (vol. number, name of set, and page number). As you read the digest paragraphs, select relevant court decisions, read them in full, and see how the courts have treated this statutory section.
Example: You want the Taft-Hartley Act in the exact form as originally enacted by Congress in 1947. Remember, the current code gives you that same law but only as it exists now (that is, including any and all amendments added since 1947). Just like all other statutes, the Taft-Hartley Act was first published as one, single statute in the session law volume(s) for the year in which the statute was passed (1947 in our case). The U.S. session law series is called the Statutes-at- Large. Go to that set, find the volume(s) for 1947, and find your statute in that volume.