While statutory law and case law get plenty of attention in legal research and writing, the third area of law, administrative or regulatory law, is often overlooked. It is just as binding as case and statutory law, however, and thus just as important; conducting research in this area of law is essential for any legal research project.
About administrative law
Administrative law is composed of the rules and regulations created and enforced by administrative agencies. The primary sources for federal administrative rulemaking are the Federal Register (FR) and Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Final rules and regulations of federal agencies are first published in the FR, which comes out each business day, except federal holidays. They are later published in the CFR, which is a subject compilation of the rules and regulations in effect at the time of its publication.
Finding administrative law
The Federal Register is available for free on the U.S. Government and Printing Office Federal Digital System (FDsys) website (1994-current). It is also available on HeinOnline (1936-current), WestlawNext, Lexis Advance, and Bloomberg Law.
- Pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act, federal agencies must publish notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register and provide a period of time for public comments before a final rule is published. Thus, the FR includes both proposed and final rules, and summaries of comments received can be found published with the final rule.
The Code of Federal Regulations is also freely accessible on the FDsys website (1996-current). The U.S. Government and Printing Office also offers the e-CFR, which although unofficial, is the most current resource for federal regulations. In addition, HeinOnline (1938-current), WestlawNext, Lexis Advance, and Bloomberg Law all have the CFR available.
Other administrative law resources
For in-depth information on finding regulations, as well as keeping your administrative law research current, check out the Ross-Blakley Law Library’s Federal Regulations Research Guide. The Georgetown Law Library also offers an excellent Administrative Law Research Tutorial. Finally, for a listing of federal agencies and their contact information consult the United States Government Manual in print in the Law Library or electronically on the GPO website.