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Historical Resources for U.S. and State Law

Sources of historical federal and state cases, legislation and regulations, as well as books, journals and newspapers.

Session Laws

After a bill passes, it is assigned a sequential act number. Numbering style varies by state.  These acts may be available electronically or the state's print legislative service.

At the end of each legislative session, laws are arranged chronologically and printed in the state's session laws.  The title of the session laws varies by state.

Statutes / Codes

A state code contains all public and permanent state laws currently in force and is arranged by subject matter. The numbering varies by state.

Legislative History

A legislative history is a term used to designate documents produced by a legislature leading up to the enactment of a law. The purpose behind conducting a legislative history is to examine the ’ intent behind the enactment of the law, or the reasons behind the failure of a bill to become a law.

For Wisconsin, see our separate guide to Wisconsin Legislative History for information on locating these documents.

Notes:

- Compiling legislative histories for state laws can be difficult.  For the most part, state legislatures do not publish their debates, committee reports, or transcripts of hearings held before legislative committees.

- Individual states will generally have state agencies that offer research services to the state legislature and contain many documents that will hlep in understanding particular state laws.  In Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau serves this function.

- Most states have published legislative history research guides online.  The Indiana University School of Law Library has compiled a list of State Legislative History Research Guides on the Web.