Nexis Uni (formerly LexisNexis Academic) is the easiest source to use for current federal law "on the books" -
Other federal statutory law sources:
Annotated codes - Two publishers create sets of the same laws that are in U.S.C. (see "What Are Statutory and Case Law?" below), but add annotations - editorial content that helps researchers find out more about how the law has been interpreted and applied. The "law on the books" (the statutory language itself) will be the same as in U.S.C.
Before codification in U.S. Code, laws passed by Congress are published in the order passed in a series called Statutes at Large. If your research project involves discovering legislative intent, you will want to check out our Guide to Congressional Publications as well. The UCB Law Library has additional resources on finding and interpreting the law.
For background on the congressional process that led to enactment of a federal law, Proquest Legislative Insight is the best resource to use. Use the name of the law (e.g. Clean Air Act Amendments of 1977) to find a list of documents - including bills, congressional committee hearings, Congressional Record transcripts of debate on the floor of Congress, and so on - related to the drafting and passage of the law.
Nexis Uni (formerly LexisNexis Academic) is the easiest source to use for current federal case law "on the books" -
When looking at a court opinion in Nexis Uni, check the right side of the screen for Nexis's Shepardizing service. Shepard's is a citator, and helps you find background of your case, as well as other materials you might consider for the "law in action" part of the assignment. Also, check the icons next to the name of the case for their description in the Shepards box. Additional information on the case is also provided:
Another way to Shepardize is from the home screen: enter "shep: [case citation]" (case citation is the volume, reporter abbreviation and page number only, not the party names or the year of decision - for example, for Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), enter just shep: 410 U.S. 113). Click search and you will see all the cases that have reinterpreted, overturned or changed the ruling since it was originally made.
TIP: Law review articles about your case can be a good type of source to check first, so skip to that part of the list. Many of these articles should be linked to full text within Nexis Uni, but if an article you are interested in is not, copy the citation and look for the full text in HeinOnline. The citation for an article would look like this: 41 Willamette L. Rev. 373 (2005), so entering 41 Willamette L. Rev. 373 on Hein Online's citation tab should bring up the article.
Statutes - often simply called laws - in the federal system are laws created by Congress. They are organized into "codified" law and published as the United States Code. The current U.S.C. represents the federal "law on the books" in effect now.
Case law - also called opinions, court rulings, decisions, or just cases - are a form of "judge-made" law in that cases can set forth legal rules and interpretations of other laws. In the federal system, these are published in chronological order in different "reporters" that collect case law from the different levels of the federal court system: