In connection with the Law Library’s celebration of Law Day, we will be publishing a series of eight posts that focus on the basics of the Maryland court system and legal research.
Statutes are the laws passed by legislative bodies and probably what most people visualize when they think about the law. Statutes are generally organized by subject in a set called a “code”. For example, you would generally find statutes about divorce laws in Maryland under the Family Law Article (subject) in the Code of Maryland (code). Don’t forget, statutes are only one of the three main sources of primary law (statutes, regulations and case law), and your legal research may not be complete if you only focus on relevant statutes.
Federal Statutes. The U.S. Congress is the U.S. federal government’s legislative body and derives its power to make laws from the United States Constitution. The U.S. Congress consists of two chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate. Members of Congress are directly elected by citizens of the United States. To learn more about the federal legislative process, check out this article, “How Our Laws Are Made”, available on Congress.gov.
Current U.S. statutes are organized by subject matter in the current U.S. Code, which is available online here. In addition, check out our earlier blog post here about Congress.gov, the official federal website for federal legislative information. Congress.gov is a great resources that provides members of the public with access to current and historic legislative information, including bill status, bill summaries and committee reports.
The Law Library’s print collection includes the West’s United States Code Annotated. (The annotations included in the print books by the editors include references to relevant cases, law review articles and other resources that may provide the legal researcher with useful research and related primary sources.) You can also read the annotated code in electronic format through the Law Library’s subscriptions to WestlawNext and LexisNexis.
Maryland Statutes. Maryland’s legislative body is the Maryland General Assembly, which is comprised of two chambers: the State Senate and the House of Delegates. The Maryland General Assembly meets for 90 calendar days each year, beginning on the second Wednesday of January, and special sessions may be called by the Governor or a petition by a majority of each house. More information about the Maryland legislative process is available here. Current Maryland statutes are organized by article (subject) in the Code of Maryland and available online here.
The Law Library’s print collection includes current and superseded copies of Michie’s Annotated Code of Maryland West’s Annotated Code of Maryland. (The annotations included in the print books by the editors include references to relevant cases, law review articles and other resources that may provide the legal researcher with useful research and related primary sources.) In addition, you can read the current annotated code in electronic format through the Law Library’s subscriptions to WestlawNext and LexisNexis.
Local Ordinances and Resolutions. Don’t forget local ordinances and resolutions! For example, if you live in Annapolis, your legal statutory research may need to include the Anne Arundel County Code as well as the Code of the City of Annapolis.
The legislative body for Anne Arundel County is the County Council, whose members are elected. The Anne Arundel County Council generally holds legislative session on the first and third Mondays of each month (excluding August) in Annapolis, Maryland and all sessions are open to the public. For more information, check out the County Council’s website. For those you who cannot attend the sessions in person, you may be able to view live webcasts.
The Annapolis City Council is the legislative body for the city of Annapolis, and its members include the Mayor of Annapolis and eight Aldermen and Alderwomen. Information regarding the City Council’s regular meetings, public access to agendas and television schedules are available here.
The Law Library’s print collection includes current and superseded copies of the Anne Arundel County Code and the Code of the City of Annapolis. In addition, the Law Library’s collection includes copies of the Anne Arundel County Council’s Proposed Bills, Final Bills, Resolutions and Schedules.
Stay tuned for the next post in our Law Day Series, which will provide an overview of the Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings.