Law and the Presidency

Presidential documents most often used for legal research include Executive Orders, Proclamations, and Signing Statements. GMU patrons have access to a number of resources for locating these and other presidential documents, including HeinOnline’s U.S. Presidential Library.  This collection includes:

  • Compilation of Presidential Documents (1965-): Published by the Office of the Federal Register this compilation includes Proclamations, Executive orders, Communications to Congress and Federal agencies, Signing Statements, Appointments and Nominations, Speeches, Press conferences, and Press Releases.  Also available on FDsys(1993-)
  • Public Papers of the Presidents (Hoover 1929-)  Published by the Office of the Federal Register, includes writings, papers, and remarks.  (President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s papers, published separately, are also included in the Presidential Library).  Also available on FDsys (Bush 1991-)
  • CFR Title 3 (1936-) Executive Orders and Proclamations are codified here. Also available on FDsys (1996-)
  • Messages and Papers of the Presidents  (Washington-Hoover)  Includes annual, veto, and special messages.

Other useful resources include the Government Printing Office (FDsys) (coverage noted above) and the American Presidency Project which also provides varied coverage of the documents above as well as election-related documents and video.

 

So How Does That Law Get Codified?

In a nutshell, Congress passes a bill, it’s signed by the President, assigned a Public Law Number by the Office of Federal Register (most laws are “Public Laws” — i.e. they affect all citizens), and then published chronologically in the United States Statutes at Large (a.k.a. Session Laws).

But wait—aren’t Federal Laws found by subject in the United States Code? Indeed they are, but not immediately upon passage. Under 2 U.S.C.§ 285b, the U.S. House of Representatives, Office of the Law Revision Counsel (“OLRC”) classifies newly enacted laws (general and permanent laws) by subject matter and publishes the U.S. Code. Often a public law relates to many different Code chapters and titles.

The OLRC website is a useful resource for statutory information. It includes (in Beta Version):

  • U.S. Code:  Browse by title; search by keyword, title, section, and sub-parts
  • Cite-Checker:  Enter title and section to find a law’s catchline (heading), public law numbers, and editorial notes
  • U.S. Preliminary Code Search Code provisions in “an advance posting of the next online version of the United States Code”
  • Statutes at Large Table (“Table III Tool”): Cross reference Public Law numbers with corresponding Code provisions  (1789- )
  • Overview of the U.S. Code Classification:  Find general information about the Code, currency, updating, and the classification process

 

Mass Digitization v. Copyright

There have been two significant developments in the ongoing disputes between copyright holders and information providers.

On October 4, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) settled its longstanding copyright infringement case against Google challenging the Google Books Library Project.  According to an AAP press release, under the parties’ settlement agreement “US publishers can choose to make available or choose to remove their books and journals digitized by Google for its Library Project.” This settlement does not impact the continuing dispute between Google and the Author’s Guild.

Last week, a U.S. District Court Judge dismissed a copyright infringement lawsuit brought by writers’ guilds against the Haithi Trust, a digital repository formed by a consortium of university libraries to preserve and enhance access to library materials. Google has done most of the scanning for the project.

The legal issues here involve the right of “Fair Use” (17 U.S.C. § 107), which permits the reproduction of copyrighted works in certain instances. To learn more about fair use and other U.S. Copyright Laws, see the U.S. Copyright Office Website.  For additional resources, please consult the law library’s Intellectual Property Research Guide.

Introducing Congress.gov

The Library of Congress has just announced (see live tweets of the announcement) that a new legislative website will replace Thomas. The new site, currently in beta, is Congress.gov.  Features include the ability to search across content types, faceted searching to refine search results, persistent URLs, multimedia presentations on the legislative process, live video from the House and Senate Chambers when in session, and user friendly interfaces for mobile devices.

More information about this new site is available here.

Happy Constitution Day!

Today is the 225th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. Pursuant to 36 U.S.C. §106, September 17 is designated as “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day”, and under 36 U.S.C. §108, the President is requested to “designate the week beginning September 17 and ending September 23 as ‘Constitution Week.’”

Useful resources about the U.S. Constitution include:

  • American Memory (Library of Congress) Find documents from the Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention (1774-1789), includes images of original documents and related materials. 
  • Founder’s Constitution (University of Chicago Press) Provides links to historical documents related to the development of the Constitution. 
  • LII: CRS Annotated Constitution Prepared by the Congressional Research Service, provides links to Supreme Court opinions, the U.S. Code, and the Code of Federal Regulations.
  • National Archives Images of original documents and historical information. 

 

 

 

Law and the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks

One of the many legacies of the tragic events of September 11, 2001 has been the expansion of law aimed at combating terrorism.  As discussed in an earlier post, this legislative response included enacting the Patriot Act on October 26, 2001.

The Law Library of Congress has posted a list of Legislation Related to the Attack of September 11, 2001 Updated through the 107th Congress (2001-2003), the list cites 21  Bills and Joint Resolutions signed into law, including H.J. Res. 71 designating September 11 as Patriot Day (36 U.S.C. § 144).  President Obama’s 2012 Patriot Day Proclamation is available on the White House Website here.

 

Labor Day 2012

In observance of Labor Day, the Law Library will be closed on Monday, September 3. Weekend hours remain unchanged.

Want more information about Labor Day? The U.S. Department of Labor website is a good place to start. The DOL also provides statutory, regulatory, and general information about issues that come under its jurisdiction, including:  wage & hours, occupational health & safety, worker’s compensation, whistleblowers, and family leave. Find a “Summary of the Major Laws of the Department of Labor” here.

The Second Anniversary of Dodd-Frank

Tomorrow it will be two years since Congress enacted the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.  The law was designed to provide comprehensive reform to financial regulation in response to the major crisis that hit the U.S. financial system in 2008. The law’s stated purpose is:

To promote the financial stability of the United States by improving accountability and transparency in the financial system, to end ‘‘too big to fail’’, to protect the American taxpayer by ending bailouts, to protect consumers from abusive financial services practices, and for other purposes.

This voluminous statute has spawned thousands of pages of regulation. Its provisions include the establishment of the Financial Stability Oversight Council, chaired by the Treasury Secretary and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

A Congressional Research Service Report summarizing the policy issues and provisions of the law is available here.  Not surprisingly, the law has generated vocal adherents and detractors.  A Google News search for “Dodd-Frank” and/or a search limited to “Blogs”* will reveal many of these opinions.

*To find blogs on Google: Search for the desired keyword>From the results page, expand the left hand toolbar at “More”>Select “Blogs”

 

Happy Fourth of July!

Independence Day marks the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. But what exactly is this document?  It is printed in Statutes at Large.  It is included in the United States Code as one of “The Organic Laws of the United States of America.”  It has been mentioned periodically in Supreme Court decisions. Not surprisingly, the relevance of this document has been the subject of some debate in the legal academy. “Declaration of Independence” as a title search in HeinOnline will yield several articles.

Visit the National Archives website to view images of the Declaration of Independence and to read a brief history of this document.  The original is housed in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom.  You can also view a 1998 video of then members of the Supreme Court reading the complete text.

The law library will be closed on Wednesday, July 4 in observance of Independence Day.  Enjoy the fireworks!

The Health Care Decision

The Supreme Court has issued its decision in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius reviewing the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Public Law 111-148, 124 Stat. 119 (2010).  The Court upheld the “individual mandate” as constitutional under the Congress’ power to tax under Article 1, Section 8, Clause 1. Chief Justice Roberts wrote the opinion for the majority, in which Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan joined.