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BA Law - Research Guides

General Information

Public law consists of  "The laws that cover administration, constitution and criminal acts. It controls the actions between the citizens of the state and the state itself. It deals with the governments operation and structure." (Black's Law Dictionary, 2nd ed.,see The Law Dictionary, an online version of Black's 2nd.).  There is also a separate body of law called Private Law which deals with individuals and their relationships. It is not part of the BA in Law core curriculum and will not be covered here.

Sources of Public Law in the United States include the Constitution, Legislation (Statutes), and the administrative rules and regulations contained in the Federal Register/Code of Federal Regulations which exist to implement the statutes.

Constitutional Law

West Study Aids - Nutshell Series

Concise Hornbooks 


The Concept of Federalism

Operating in tandem with the federal government is the system of state governments. "The American federal system consists of two levels of government, each with authority over the same people but independent of the other. The national, or “federal,” government is often considered to be the “upper” level of government, in part because it encompasses the territory of all of the states, in part because of its powers under Article IV, the Supremacy Clause, of the U.S. Constitution. But the federal government is not always the hierarchical superior of the states. Rather, under the Constitution, federal and state governments are coordinate, each supreme within its own sphere, and each having a sphere in which it is supreme." (from Federalism in the Oxford Companion to American Law).

Some sources relating to a discussion of this division of powers or links to primary sources: 

While the role of courts is not considered a law-making one they are included here because of the role they play in determining the constitutionality of laws passed by the legislature. For discussions of the interaction of the judiciary with the legislative and executive branches of government, please see the following sources:

West Academic's Nutshell Series

West Academic's Concise Hornbook Series


Legislation (Statutes) is the source of law familiar to most citizens. At the federal level, the United States Code is a compilation of all federal statutes currently in effect. Various commercial versions also exist and are usually annotated. You will probably not need to examine statutes during the BA in Law undergrad program but it's helpful to understand where they--and the U.S. Congress--fit in the overall structure of a public law system. some helpful sources are:

West Academic's Nutshell Series


Administrative Law

Federal rules and regulations are promulgated by government agencies. The authority for this agency rule-making is granted by statute and is intended to aid in the implementation of specific laws. Rules and regulations are published in the multi-volume set called the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Volumes in this set are updated  annually with specific titles updated at intervals throughout the year.  As new rules/regulations are proposed they are published first in the Federal Register (FR) and open to public comment. After some editing of the proposed rule, the final version is once again published in the FR and ultimately in the CFR. Rule-making in the U.S. is a lengthy process but as long as you know at what stage in the process to look,the rules themselves are readily found.  Examples of citations to each of these titles are:

  • 40 CFR 197.14 (2018)
  • 73 FR 61287, Oct. 15, 2008

Both the CFR and the FR are available in print in the Law Library but you can also find them online on their official government web sites:

  • Code of Federal Regulations - This government web site allows you to browse the entire 50-volume set of titles subject to agency rule-making authority by year. 
  • Federal register - allows searching by government agency and topic back to 1994. 
  • e-CFR -a compilation of both CFR and FR updated on a daily basis.

For detailed information about administrative law and the process of rulemaking, see the following sources:

Nutshell Series

Concise Hornbooks


Law Library of Congress research guide on Administrative Law