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
Since 1916, the Supreme Court’s Term has begun each year on the first Monday in October. 28 U.S.C. § 2. Supreme Court terms are therefore called the “October Term” followed by the year (e.g. October Term 2012). Why the first October Monday?
Under the Judiciary Act of 1789 (1 Stat. 73) the Court sat for two sessions, one beginning the “first Monday of August,” the second the “first Monday of February.” Congress subsequently altered the Court’s term a number of times:
- 1801 Two Terms, began the first Mondays in June and December (2 Stat. 89)
- 1802 One Term, began the first Monday in February (2 Stat. 156)
- 1826 One Term, began the second Monday in January (4 Stat. 160)
- 1844 One Term, began the second Monday in December (5 Stat. 676)
- 1873 One Term, began the second Monday of October (17 Stat. 419)
In 1916, Congress passed H.R. 15158 (39 Stat. 726) which amended the judicial code to, in part, fix the start of the Court’s term to the first Monday in October. According to both the applicable House and Senate Committee Reports, the purpose of changing the term start date was “to shorten the vacation and give the court an extra week when the weather is favorable to work.” H. R. Rep. No. 794 at 1 (1916), S. Rep. No. 775 at 1 (1916).
For more information about the Court’s docket, including oral argument dates, consult the Supreme Court Website. Scotus Blog is another very useful source to keep up to date on cases before the Court.
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.
Veterans Day, a holiday for Federal employees, will be observed on Friday, November 11. All GMU Law Library services will operate on a normal Friday schedule: the library will be open 8:00 AM – 10:00 PM, Reference Services will be available 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website provides links to veterans-related legislation (106th-111th Congress) available on Thomas, the Library of Congress site for legislative information. Additional information regarding congressional action related to veterans issues may be found on the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees’ web pages.
Other resources related to the legal rights of veterans include:
Board of Veterans Appeals: Part of the Veterans Administration, this web page includes links to forms and BVA decisions.
U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims: This Court reviews certain BVA decisions.
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit: This Court’s jurisdiction includes review of UCAVC decisions.
Scotusblog (the most followed blog covering the U.S. Supreme Court) will be hosting an on-line symposium on the issue of same-sex marriage. A number of guest bloggers will debate this issue during the next two weeks. Topics to be addressed include:
- Is the issue of same-sex marriage ripe for review?
- What would be the applicable standard of review if the Court reaches the merits?
- How is the Court likely to approach the question of same-sex marriage?
- How will the Court’s decisions in other cases affect its views on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8?
In observance of Memorial Day, the Law Library will close at 6 pm on Sunday, May 29 and remain closed on Monday, May 30.
A brief Memorial Day History is available on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Website. Also of interest may be two famous Memorial Day speeches delivered by Oliver Wendell Holmes, one in 1884 and the other addressed to the graduating class at Harvard Law School in 1895. PDFs of these speeches are available using The Making of Modern Law: Legal Treatises Database (GMULS users link to this database here). Select Advanced Search>Enter Title “Speeches,” Author “Oliver Wendell Holmes.”
And where is Memorial Day officially designated a Federal holiday? Title 36 of the United States Code includes statutes relating to “Patriotic and National Observances.” 36 U.S.C. § 116 designates the last Monday in May as Memorial Day.