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LRAC Legal Research Class Site

Federal Agencies

Federal agencies are just like state agencies!

Federal agencies are part of the executive branch of government and have been created by Congress to carry out its legislative will.

Just like the Arizona legislature, Congress often enact statutes that create a broad framework for an area of law and then creates an agency with the power to make regulations to fulfill the purpose of the law and fill in the details, enforce the law and regulations, and adjudicate disputes. 

Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division Child Labor Example

Congress created the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division and enacted statutes regulating employee wages and hours.

For example, Congress passed a statute to outlaw oppressive child labor. Then, the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division enacted regulations to fulfill the Congressional purpose of outlawing oppressive child labor.

REMINDER: Because there are laws and regulations on the same topic, remember that no federal statutory research is COMPLETE without finding any applicable federal regulations.

Federal Statute

The child labor statute is located at 29 U.S.C.A. § 212 in the United States Code.

Federal Regulations

The child labor regulations are codified  at 29 C.F.R. § 570.1 et seq. in the Code of Federal Regulations.

Code of Federal Regulations

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) is the official publication for the current regulations of federal agencies. 

Code of Federal Regulations Organization

The CFR is organized much like the United States Code (USC). The regulations are codified by topic in 50 titles that are divided into chapters, subchapters, parts, and sections. The CFR titles do not necessarily correspond to the USC titles of the same topic.

Citation example - 29 C.F.R. § 570.1

  • 29 = title number
  • 553 = part number
  • 553.105 = section number


The Code of Federal Regulations is available from the government's FDsys and e-CFR websites, as well as from commercial online services such as Westlaw and Lexis.

Notes of Decision

If you are using a commercial online service such as Westlaw or Lexis, you have the usual editorial enhancements like notes of decision (cases that interpret the regulations aka statutory annotations) and historical information. 

The government's FDsys and e-CFR versions of the Code of Federal Regulations just have the text of the regulations with no editorial enhancements.


Remember that NO federal statutory research is COMPLETE without also searching for any applicable federal regulations, because there are often statutes AND regulations on the same topic (as in the child labor example).

Just Like Federal Statutes!!

Yayayayayay there is NOT MUCH new to learn about searching for federal regulations because statutes and regulations are so similar.


  1. Federal regulations and statutes look alike (and are sometimes mistaken for each other)
  2. The Code of Federal Regulations is organized just like the United States Code into titles, chapters, etc.
  3. On Westlaw and Lexis, the federal regulations have the same editorial enhancements as statutes – notes of decision, historical annotations, KeyCite/Shepard’s symbols, etc.
  4. Federal regulations and statutes are searchable in the exact same way (see below)

Finding Federal Statutes

There are two main way to find federal regulations.


You can find CFR citations while reading secondary sources, cases, statutes, etc.


Westlaw - Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)

  1. Subject index
  2. Table of contents
  3. Keyword searching (natural language or Terms and Connectors)

Lexis - Code of Federal Regulations

  1. Subject index (available in a separate databases - Code of Federal Regulations - Index)
  2. Table of contents
  3. Keyword searching (natural language or Terms and Connectors)

Updating Federal Regulations

Updating a regulation with KeyCite or Shepard's is just like updating a statute.

Just like statutes, there are three things you want to know when you are updating a regulation (Arizona or federal).

  1. Do you have the most current version of the regulation?
  2. Has the regulation received any negative treatment from case law?
  3. Are there any pending proposed regulations that might soon amend your regulation?

Most Current Version

A regulation with a recently adopted amendment that changes the text of the regulation will have a red flag/symbol.

Negative Treatment from Case Law

A regulation with negative case law treatment will have a yellow or red flag/symbol.   

Proposed Amendments to Regulations

A regulation with a pending proposed amendment will have a yellow flag/symbol.

Federal Register

The Federal Register is a record of the rulemaking activities of federal agencies. The Register contains proposed and final regulations as well as notices, executive orders, and other information. 

There are TWO main purposes of the Register.

  1. To inform the public of newly proposed regulations and plans to amend existing regulations
  2. To inform the public of final versions of regulations


The Federal Register is available from the government's FDsys and federalregister.gov websites, as well as from commercial online services such as Westlaw and Lexis.