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Circuit Riders: Code of Federal Regulations

Basic Legal Research Training

The Federal Regulatory Process

When the U.S. Congress passes a federal law, it may designate an existing federal agency or create a new federal agency to enforce and implement that law. To do this, Congress gives that federal agency the duty and power to write rules and regulations. For example, Congress designated the U.S. Department of Education as the federal agency responsible for issuing regulations to implement the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). 


Federal Register


Once a federal agency is given the authority to write regulations, it generally 
publishes proposed rules (aka regulations) with requests for public comment in the Federal Register (FR)The Federal Register is updated daily by 6 a.m. and published Monday through Friday. Once the comment period, which varies, has passed, federal agencies publish their final regulations in the Federal RegisterThe final rule includes:

  • a preamble (summary, effective date, purpose, response to comments);
  • the full text of the regulation;
  • the legal authority for issuing it; and
  • how the rule will amend the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). 

Code of Federal Regulations

  CFR volume containing Title 29.
These final regulations are 
organized and published by the Office of the Federal Register and Government Publishing Office (GPO) by agency and subject into parts and sections within the 50 titles of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). 

For example, The Department of Education regulations that implement the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) regulations are published in Title 34 (Education), parts 300 and 303 of the Code of Federal Regulations. The specific regulation that states the purposes of the Part 300 regulations is published in Title 34 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 300, section 1 (34 C.F.R. § 300.1). 

§ 300.1   Purposes.

The purposes of this part are—

(a) To ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living;

(b) To ensure that the rights of children with disabilities and their parents are protected;

(c) To assist States, localities, educational service agencies, and Federal agencies to provide for the education of all children with disabilities; and

(d) To assess and ensure the effectiveness of efforts to educate children with disabilities.

(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1400(d))

Text of the IDEA  Regulation

The law library maintains a copy of the print Federal Register and the current and previous versions of the official print Code of Federal Regulations. The official Federal Register (1936-present) and the official Code of Federal Regulations (Annual Edition) (1996-present) are available for free on the Government Publishing Office's (GPO's) govinfo website.

Code of Federal Regulations (Annotated)

Like the official United States Code, the official print and online versions of the Code of Federal Regulations are not annotated. They provide the text of the regulations only. Unlike the United States Code, there is no print annotated version of the Code of Federal Regulations.

However, both Westlaw and Lexis annotate the Code of Federal Regulations within their online subscription databases. Some public libraries in South Carolina provide access to Westlaw for their patrons, while some South Carolina colleges and universities, including the University of South Carolina, provide access to Nexis Uni (by Lexis). 

Annotations to individual regulations include relevant secondary sources (encyclopedia, books, articles) and summaries and citations to federal cases applying and interpreting that regulation.

Citing a Federal Regulation

The proper citation to a federal regulation includes that regulation's title (34), part (300), section (1) and the revision year (2019) of that Title of the Code of Federal Regulations.

For example, the regulation referenced above stating the purposes of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEAwould be cited as:

34C.F.R.§300.1(2019).

The entire Part 300 of Title 34 of the Code of Federal Regulations would be cited as: 

34C.F.R.pt.300(2019).

The blue bullets in the citations above represent spaces.