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U.S. Administrative Law Research: General Sources

Updated May 20, 2015.
Prepared by Cheryl Nyberg; updated by Jackie Woodside (2008).

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Administrative law is the body of law created by administrative agencies in the form of rules, regulations, procedures, orders, and decisions. The Administrative Procedure Act, 5 USC §§551 et seq., establishes the basic procedural standards for federal agencies.

Agencies are given the authority to issue and enforce regulations by acts of Congress. This delegation of authority may be general or specific. For an example of a general delegation of authority, see the National Labor Relations Act provision giving the National Labor Relations Board authority to "rules and regulations as may be necessary" to implement the act. (29 U.S.C. §156). Contrast that general statement with the more specific delegation of authority in the Organic Foods Product Act of 1990, which gives the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to develop "detailed regulations . . . [for] the implementation of the standards for livestock products" (7 U.S.C.§ 6509 (g)).

This guide identifies general sources on current regulatory activities, selected law books on administrative law, useful directories, and other legal research guides.

Companion guides:

Some commercial sources require passwords; other sources are UW Restricted. Access to Bloomberg Law, Lexis, and Westlaw is restricted to users with individual IDs and passwords.

See also the Gallagher guide on Washington State Administrative Law Research.


General Sources

RegInfo.gov, a portal to federal regulatory information
Contains the semiannual Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions, related documents, a RegMap that provides an overview of the rule-making process, and links to relevant websites.

For scholarly treatments see:

Administrative Law Treatise, 5th ed. 3 vols. Updated annually. Table of contents Administrative Law Treatise
KF5402.D32 2010 at Reference Area

Administrative Law and Practice, 3d ed. 5 vols. Updated annually. Table of contents
KF5407.K63 2010 at Reference Area | Westlaw

Administrative Law. 1 vol. Updated quarterly. Table of contents
Lexis

For a much abbreviated overview, see Administrative Law and Process in a Nutshell, 5th ed.
KF5402.Z9G4 2006 at Reference Area

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Directories

U.S. Government Manual (annual).
Provides overviews of Congress, the judicial branch, and executive branch agencies and departments. Includes historical information on changes in agency organization.
JK421.U57 at Reference Area & Reference Office, current edition; earlier editions, 1973-last year at Classified Stacks | FDsys, 1995-date | Westlaw (current edition)

Federal Regulatory Directory, 1980-2010 (subscription cancelled).
Contains extensive descriptions about individual regulatory agencies, with appendices of the Administrative Procedure Act and the Freedom of Information Act.
KF5406.A15F4 at Classified Stacks | Suzzallo Ground Floor Reference (latest edition)

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Guides

The National Archives offers a Federal Register Tutorial (PDF) and other information about the Federal Register, the Code of Federal Regulations, and the U.S. Government Manual.

A Guide to the Rulemaking Process, from the Office of the Federal Register, reviews proposed and final rules processes.

A Research Guide to the Federal Register and the Code of Federal Regulations by the Law Librarians' Society of Washington, DC covers history, contents and organization; citations; the Unified Agenda; indexes; and the List of Sections Affected. From the same organization, see Federal Administrative Law: A Brief Overview.

Georgetown Law Library's Administrative Law Research Tutorial illustrates the regulatory process and the sources of law that process creates (agency regulations and decisions). It includes review questions to help you assess your understanding of the process and materials.

Tracking Current Federal Legislation and Regulations: A Guide to Basic Sources (2007), by the Congressional Research Service, describes official and commercial sources and services.

The Law Library of Congress's Guide to Administrative Law covers presidential, executive branch, and agency-specific material.

Several CALI lessons also provide useful reviews of the rule-making and adjudicative processes.

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Website

Center for Regulatory Effectivenss

The Center for Regulatory Effectiveness was established "provide Congress with independent analyses of agency regulations."

The website features a weekly newsletter (Regweek), reports on special projects (such as human volunteer research and erogonomics), litigation involving regulations, and abstracts and reviews of new papers.

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Statistics

The FederalRegister.gov website provides useful historical statistics on pages and types of documents published in the Register [note: scroll down to Statistics].

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