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Legal Research Basics

Introduction

There are many sources for free legal information on the Internet, especially for legislative bodies and regulatory agencies. It can be cost-effective to begin your research on free (but authoritative) websites before moving to fee-based legal databases.

Always remember:

  • Evaluate internet sources for authenticity and credibility
  • Websites often do not cite to primary law - move to specialized legal databases to find citations and confirm results

Federal

Cornell's Legal Information Institute - Primary law including U.S. Supreme Court decisions, U.S. Code, Code of Federal Regulations, and more

Congress.gov - Information on pending federal legislation including full text of bills and legislative documents

Federal Administrative Agency Decisions - Organized by agency

Govinfo.gov (currently in beta) - Official, authenticated, and free information from all three branches of the federal government

California

California Legislative Information - California bills and statutes

California Office of Administrative Law - California Code of Regulations

California Municipal Codes - Municipal codes for every county and city in California

California Ballot Propositions and Initiatives - Repository of the official text of ballot propositions, initiatives, and pamphlets back to 1911

Other States

Cornell's Legal Information Institute - Links to state legislative, administrative, and judicial information

Foreign & International

World Legal Information Institute - Portal to the law of other countries with links to English translations and research guides on foreign legal systems

Electronic Information System for International Law - Primary sources, websites, and research guides related to international law