Free public access to United States government documents in a federal depository library is guaranteed by law (44 USC §1911). While UC Berkeley houses one of the most comprehensive collections of U.S. government documents in the country, the Library is one of over a thousand Federal Depository Libraries across the United States, and one of several Federal Depository Libraries in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Researching the laws and regulations of the United States is not as difficult as you may imagine, but there is some logic, process and language to understand. This guide will provide the basics on finding current and historic laws and regulations, court opinons and interpretations.
Have you ever been puzzled by weird citations such as:
No need to worry. These are legal citations and they are quite easy to read once you figure out their logic and abbreviations. The first number is the volume of the publication where the law is published, and the second number is the page number where the law appears. The publication is the abbreviation in the middle. For instance, 410 U.S. 113 would be read as: "Volume 410 of the United States Reports, page 113." Sometimes the first number refers to a title/part number instead of a volume number and the second number refers to a section number instead of page number. The real tricky part is figuring out the abbreviation for the publication. Below are some of the more common abbreviations. As you become more familiar with legal research, you will recognize the more common abbreviations. For other citations, see Bieber's Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations in the Reference Collection.
U.S.-- United States Reports (Supreme Court opinions)
CFR -- Code of Federal Regulations (In this case, its [Title Number] CFR [Part/Section Number])
FR -- Federal Register
F -- Federal Reporter
F2d -- Federal Reporter, Second Series
USC -- U.S. Code (In this case, its [Title Number] USC [Section Number])
Stat -- U.S. Statutes at Large
Cal -- California Reporter
Need help with research? Have a question about the collection or the UC Berkeley Library? Here are three ways to get in touch with me: