Repositories of Administrative Rules and Regulations


For more than half a century, federal administrative rules and regulations have been published in two official publications: The Federal Register, abbreviated F.R., and the Code of Federal Regulations, abbreviated C.F.R.

Since 1936, the Federal Register has been the official daily publication of rules, proposed rules, and notices of federal agencies and organizations. Additionally it publishes executive orders and other presidential documents. Each year a new volume of The Federal Register is published. The current volume is 77. The last 19 volumes are available electronically from FDSys, and through FindLaw.

The Code of Federal Regulations, like until very recently, the United States Code, is divided into 50 topics. However, the topics of the two codified compilations do not necessarily correspond. For example, the 17th topic in both compilations is called “title 17.” However, in The United States Code, title 17 covers statutes on copyrights, while in The Code of Federal Regulations, title 17 covers rules and regulations on commodity and securities exchanges. Thus, if you are interested in learning how statutory provisions regarding copyright arbitration have been further detailed by administrative agencies, going to the C.F.R. volumes that cover title 17 would be a mistake. The rules and regulations regarding copyright arbitration are available in title 37 of The Code of Federal Regulations, which is entitled “Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights.” The Code of Federal Regulations, starting with some titles of the 1996 volume, is available electronically free of charge from FDSys, as well as through FindLaw. A good starting place to learn how to use the C.F.R. is
http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/cfr/

As this section was added to the wiki, the Cornell Legal Information Institute released an online version of the CFR. This new online edition of the CFR is the result of an unprecedented two-year collaboration between the Government Printing Office (GPO), the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School (LII), and the Cornell Law Library. It is available at: http://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text

The project implemented features that have been often requested by government regulators, corporate counsel, and law librarians. The LII’s edition of the CFR has the same search and navigation features that have made its edition of the United States Code the leading free, online source for Federal statutes for over a decade. For more information visit, http://blog.law.cornell.edu/blog/2012/05/07/lii-releases-online-code-of-federal-regulations-cfr/.

The three digital mega aggregates -- Lexis, Westlaw, and BloombergLaw -- contain The Code of Federal Regulations and The Federal Register. Both Lexis’s and Westlaw’s coverage of The Federal Register starts with the volume published in 1980. Westlaw contains historical volumes of The Code of Federal Regulations starting with the 1984 volume.

Repositories of Administrative Decisions


The C.F.R. and the F.R. are not comprehensive repositories of federal administrative law because they do not contain administrative decisions. For example, some agencies have the authority to hold hearings, solve disputes and issue administrative decisions. But, like federal administrative rules and regulations, federal administrative decisions have a solid free-of-charge digital presence. To identify those repositories, start with an academic library guide, such as
http://www2.lib.virginia.edu/govtinfo/fed_decisions_agency.html.


Administrative decisions of the federal government and federal agencies are available both in print and online, though not all of them are in both formats. While older decisions may be available in print, more recent ones are available electronically free-of-charge from their respective websites. For example, since 1942, the U.S. Department of Agriculture publishes the decisions issued by its administrative judges in Agriculture Decisions. Its post-2000 decisions are also available on its website [1]. However, the administrative decisions issued by both the Office of Hearings and Appeals of the Department of Education and the Secretary of Education are more difficult to find. As another example, the decisions issued by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission are available both commercially and, from 1996 onward, for free on its official website [2]. There is no legal mandate compelling the various administrative agencies to publish their decisions, so coverage can be sporadic.

Both Lexis and Westlaw offer some coverage of administrative decisions.

In its classical version, Lexis’s main research point for federal administrative decisions is the Federal Agency Decisions, Combined. It covers decisions from all U.S. departments, as well as decisions from many other federal agencies. Its time coverage varies. Through the new Lexis Advance platform, administrative decisions are available as part of its Shepards service
(which is discussed in more detail in the administrative law research section).

Federal administrative decisions are available through both the classic and new Westlaw platform through its KeyCite service (which is discussed in more detail in the administrative law research section). Lexis, Westlaw, and BloombergLaw cover administrative decisions that are republished through various commercial publications of the Bureau of National Affairs (BNA).

State administrative rules and regulations, as well as state administrative decisions also have a limited availability. Usually, the official state website and the fee-based databases are the best starting points. Of course, each state has repository libraries which will house those materials in print, fiche, or offer access to their electronic version. Some state administrative decisions are available through the fee-based digital aggregates as well.