Identifying the Sources of Statutory Law

Legislation, which comprises both federal and state statutes, is also known as statutory law. Through statutes legislative bodies attempt to ensure social stability and make our future predictable. Legislation represents a major component of legal normativism. Unlike case law, which is driven by particular controversies, legislation is the result of perceived public needs that require a solution for the future. The source of statutory law is statutes and what a civil law system may identify as “ordinances.”

Statutes are the result of a legislative process that takes place at the federal, state, and, unlike civil law countries, even at the municipal level. Once a statute governs a specific social activity, every time a dispute arises within that area of activity, courts will interpret the statute and solve the dispute according to the applicable statutory provision. In that process, the parties’ attorneys will offer their own interpretation of the statute to the court, hoping that theirs will prevail. Interpreting statutes, as further shown below, is a complex process, because often words do not translate into a single meaning.

In order to better understand how statutory law works, we will first briefly describe how statutes are enacted and then identify the primary sources of statutory law:

Then we will talk about locating the appropriate repositories and a few basic techniques for finding specific statutory provisions. Finally we will talk about completing your research process and making sure that what you found is still good law.