Site Search | Site Index

Site Search | Site Index

Law Library News

Law Library News Archive

Jan. 30, 2006.
Kristy Moon, editor.

Presidential Signing Statements
--Cheryl Nyberg

A little-known legal document—the Presidential signing statement—has become the talk of the blogs. Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, Jr. drafted a memo encouraging Presidential “interpretative signing statements” as a deputy assistant attorney general in 1986. And President Bush has issued more than 500 signing statements, many indicating how “the Administration” construes certain provisions.

How do these statements fit into the legislative and enactment process?

After both bodies of Congress have passed a bill, it is delivered to the White House. The President then either signifies his approval by signing the bill or vents his objections by vetoing it.

But in recent years, Presidents have added a new wrinkle by affixing signing statements with their signatures. According to a Jan. 23, 2006 article in TIME by Andrew Sullivan, Ronald Reagan issued 71 signing statements, Bill Clinton issued 105, and the current President Bush more than 500.

Legal scholars, pundits, and politicians have weighed in on the propriety and value of these signing statements in determining legislative intent, but let us here address the legal research question: Where are these signing statements found?

The primary source is the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents. This publication includes a wide array of material, including speeches, remarks, interviews—and signing statements.

You can find the Weekly Compilation in print, on the Internet, and through commercial online sources:

Another source is the United States Code, Congressional & Administrative News.

  • Print: KF48 at Reference Area.
  • Westlaw: USCCAN
  • Westlaw: USCCAN-MSG (from 1986). A sub-file containing only the Presidential messages and signing statements that have appeared in USCCAN.


New Display: Washington State Supreme Court

Did you attend any of the oral arguments while the Washington State Supreme Court was in session at the UW Law School last week or the reception that was held on Wednesday in honor of the Justices?

If you missed these exciting events, or are simply interested in learning more about the Court and the Justices, take a look at the Library’s new display “Gallagher Library Welcomes the Washington State Supreme Court.” This display will remain until the middle of February.