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 looking citations such as:
No need to worry. These are legal citations and they are quite easy to read once you understand their logic and abbreviations. The abbreviation in the middle tells you the publication you need. The first number is the volume of the publication where the citation (law, regulation, opinon, etc) is published, and the second number is the page number where the citation appears. 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 you may run into doing research. As you become more familiar with legal research, you will recognize the more common abbreviations. Common U.S. abbreviations can be found here. For other legal citations (state, local and international), see Bieber's Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations in the Doe 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