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Steps In Using a Statutory Code

Prepared by Frank Houdek, SIU Law Library — Fall 2008


Step 1: Choose which code to use

  • unannotated code (print or electronic)
  • annotated code (print)
  • annotated code (Westlaw or LexisNexis)


Step 2—Alternative 1: For print codes and those Westlaw codes for which it is available (including U.S.C.A., ILCS), search general index of the code to identify pertinent code sections by subject.


Step 2—Alternative 2: For print codes and those available on Westlaw and LexisNexis, use table of contents for pertinent title, article, or chapter to look for relevant code sections.


Step 2—Alternative 3: For print codes and Westlaw and LexisNexis codes for which it is available, use popular name table to locate the statute by its popular name if you have some idea what that might be. (Alternatively, you can use Shepard's Acts and Cases by Popular Name, Federal & State.)


Step 3: Using references identified in Step 2, locate and read the code section identified, as well as the statutory scheme of sections (if any) to which it belongs. The reference typically includes title and section numbers (e.g., 42 U.S.C. § 121), although numbering schemes vary.


Step 4: If using an annotated code, examine the case annotations that follow each pertinent section of the statute. Also review any cross-references to other code sections or research materials.


Step 5: Update a print code by examining either:

  • annual cumulative supplement (pocket part or separate pamphlet), OR
  • advance pamphlet (a.k.a. later case and statutory service).


Step 6: For legislation more recent than the date of the code, use the appropriate legislative service (in print or electronic form) to determine if any new statutes have been enacted that affect your problem. (For access, use both cumulative subject index and cumulative table of sections affected.)


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