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Circuit Riders: Updating Federal Statutes

Basic Legal Research Training

Updating the U.S. Code

Print U.S.Code
The Office of the Law Revision Counsel (OLRC) of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) publish a revised edition of the official unannotated print (or "main edition" ) of the U.S. Code every six years.

Between revisions, the GPO prints five annual hardcover cumulative supplements (I-V). The House and GPO have completed publishing the 2012 main edition of the U.S. Code for all 52 titles and the 2013 hardbound Supplement I for the official print U.S. Code. 

U.S.Code Online
The OLRC website merges the print main edition and supplement volumes for the U.S. Code as they become available. The complete 1994, 2000, and 2006 versions of the U.S. Code are available on the OLRC website along with the current 2012 U.S. Code and Supp. I for 2013 and Supp II for 2014. The OLRC provides the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) with the same U.S. Code information for GPO's "virtual main editions" available on its Federal Digital System (FDsys) website. These online versions of the U.S. Code can be made available quicker than the print versions. Foe example, as each title is revised for the 2014 Supp. II  of the U.S. Code, it will appear in the OLRC and FDsys databases; while the print volume cannot be published until all titles are up-to-date.

Further Updating Online
Federal statutes are enacted and amended by Public Laws. The Currency and Updating page of the U.S. House's website indicates through which Public Law and date the U.S. Code online is current. There is also a currency note at the top of each section of the U.S. Code. If an individual code section has been affected by any recently passed laws, a link is provided to view those laws in a list of "Pending Updates". If there are no pending updates listed, the section is current as shown.

Note the currency note in red below with no Pending Updates link provided for the criminal penalties provision of the Consumer Products Safety Act, 15 U.S.C. § 2070:

Updating U.S.C.A & U.S.C.S.

Updating in Print
Each volume of the print unofficial annotated versions of the U.S.Code (U.S.C.A. and U.S.C.S.) is updated annually by either a pocketpart inserted in the back of that volume or a separate softbound supplement shelved next to it. These supplements to the hardbound volumes include any amendments or notice of repeal for individual code sections and any new research resources or case notes that have been added to a code section's annotations since the hardbound volume was last published.

Between publications of the annual supplements for each volume, softbound supplements are provided at the end of the U.S.C.A. and the U.S.C.S. that provide the same updating information for each entire set (all titles and sections).

Therefore, to fully update a statute in the print U.S.C.A. or U.S.C.S., you must check the same title and section number in both the pocketpart or softbound supplement for that volume as well as the supplementary pamphlets at the end of the set.

And, because the online U.S.Code provided by the U.S. House's Office of Law Revision Counsel (OLRC) may be more up-to-date than the pamphlets at the end of the U.S.C.A. or U.S.C.S., you should also check its website for updates as well (See Updating the U.S. Code above).

Using Citators to Update & Find More Resources

Both annotated codes are available online through the subscription databases WestlawNext (U.S.C.A.) and Lexis Advance (U.S.C.S). Online databases eliminate the need to check supplements for updates because any amendments are incorporated into the text of the statutes.

WestlawNext and Lexis Advance also provide researchers with access to citators—KeyCite for WestlawNext and Shepard's for Lexis Advance. Citators are extremely useful for updating statutes and for performing additional research on a topic.

Citators use flags and signals to notify researchers of pending legislation; that a statute has in fact been recently amended or repealed; or that there is negative treatment, such as a court has ruled a statute to be unconstitutional.

Further Research
Citators also serve as essential tools for additional research on a subject by providing current references to cases and secondary sources that have cited a particular statute.