Interactive Legal Research & Writing Lessons: Enacted Law Research - Statute Problem Solving (Ryan)
This five-lesson module takes a best practices approach and provides a comprehensive overview to researching statutory materials on both the Federal and state level, from the introduction of a bill through its passage into law and its subsequent application and interpretation by courts in judicial opinions.
Lesson One covers the often-byzantine Federal legislative process. “Laws begin with ideas,” states the official Congressional website. Researchers must often find and track proposed legislation that could affect their clients. In this lesson, you will learn how to find bills introduced in Congress using free, highly credible and current websites such as Congress.gov and GovTrack.us, and compare what you can access on these sites to what is available on Lexis-Nexis and Westlaw. You will also learn about the materials prepared by and for Congress on a particular bill including Committee Reports, Congressional testimony, voting records, and the Congressional Record, Congress’s official daily newspaper. Finally, you will learn how to set up an Alert on various sites to automatically receive information on a bill’s progress as it weaves its way through Congress.
Lesson Two will introduce you to the legislative process of states and states’ unique official websites that contain information on bills introduced in each. Not surprisingly, these websites and the information they provide differ state to state and you will learn how to assess and evaluate the coverage of an official state website and compare it to what is available on proposed state legislation on Lexis-Nexis and Westlaw.
Lessons Three and Four cover researching enacted Federal statutes in both print and online. In these modules you will learn that best practices in researching Federal statutes (and really the only way to do so) is to use one of two annotated codes: the U.S. Code Annotated published by West and the U.S. Code Service published by Lexis-Nexis. This lesson will explain what an annotated code is and why it is essential in researching exacted statutory laws. Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson encourages her clerks to start statutory research in print so that they can “see the big picture” and that is excellent advice. In Lesson Three, you will walk through the process of print statutory research by viewing sample pages of a statute and the annotations that accompany every statute. Lesson Four covers the same material as it appears on Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis. You will then be able to not only conduct statutory research in print and online, but also assess the pros and cons of using each method in a given research situation. This research is done in the context of Title VII of the Civil Rights Law of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in employment.
Lesson Five covers researching enacted state statues in print and online. The process is identical to that used when researching Federal law. Very often, states enact legislation that addresses an issue already addressed by Federal law. Why do they do so? In using New York as an example of a state that has done so, you will learn that its law goes a step beyond Title VII to provide protection to a broader range of employees. At the end of the lesson, you will be asked to determine if your state has enacted a statute prohibiting discrimination in employment like Title VII.