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Administrative Law Research

Federal Administrative Law

Federal Administrative Law Research

The Administrative Procedure Act

The Federal Administrative Procedure Act (APA) (1946) is located (codified & updated) in the U.S. Code at 5 U.S.C. §501 et seq.  Other material relating to administrative law is at 5 U.S.C. §701 et seq. (judicial review of administrative decisions) and then at various other places in Title 5 (relating to administrative law judges).  The Act details authority for rulemaking, regulatory power, publication, adjudication of regulatory issues, and more.

The Administrative process and resources

In its most cursory form, the various federal agencies have the power to create rules and adjudicate issues within their jurisdiction in a quasi-court structure.  Most agency power flows from the act (as amended) that created the Agency.  The FCC, for example, was created by the Federal Communications Act of 1934, and that act defines its regulatory purview.  The APA defines the standard procedures the Commission must use to carry out its oversight.  This applies to all executive and administrative agencies.

Most agencies issue rules, and these are published in the Federal Register and the Code of Federal Regulations (discussed below).  Their formal opinions in specific matters are documented in the reports they issue.  A typical agency web site should have their rules, a collection of formal and informal opinions, a docket of pending matters, reports and publications, contact information, on FOIA reading room, and links to related sites.  The coverage time for agency decisions varies, as does the interface for searching and browsing.  Decisions also appear on databases in Lexis Advance and Westlaw Edge.  Administrative decisions can be appealed to the federal courts under the authority of the APA. 

[In paper, the Administrative Law Reporter by Pike and Fischer (ceased pub. in 2018) compiled court and agency decisions that cover the regulatory process.  The set includes opinions, a digest, and a bulletin.  The various Federal Digests will have index points to federal administrative law court decisions.  With the various agencies placing their decisions on the Internet, and with additional agency materials being added to Westlaw Edge & Lexis Advance -  the need for the Pike and Fischer reporter has declined.]

Shepards online and KeyCite can also give citation reports for administrative decisions, just as they would for any court decision.

Federal Administrative Law

The United States Government Manual   

The United States government is organized into three branches of Government.  These branches are sub-categorized into department, agencies, offices, authorities, commissions, public corporations, and a host of other entities.  The U.S. Government Manual identifies all of the parts of the United States government, and provides descriptions, addresses, web information, and other information for all of them.  The Manual is issued every year and is available in the reference collection of most libraries.  There is a PDF version available on GPO Access at:

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There are two kinds of agencies:  departmental and independent.  An example of a departmental agency is the National Library of Medicine (NLM), which is a part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  Thus, on an organizational chart of HHS, the NLM will appear as an entity which is under the supervision of the Secretary of Health and Human Services>National Institutes of Health>NLM.  The  Social Security Administration (SSA), however, is an independent agency (as of March 31, 1995; prior to that time it was part of HHS, and its predecessor department, Health, Education, and Welfare).  In another example, The National Labor Relations Board is an independent agency and is not part of the Department of Labor.

The manual is useful, as the government regularly reorganizes itself.  The details are found in reorganization plans submitted by the executive to congress and passed (or not) as the case may be.  The manual (and older versions of it) gives a portrait of the federal government as it adds, deletes, and consolidates operations within a given year.  Appendix B (in the 2003-2004 edition) chronicles the history of Federal Executive Agencies Terminated, Transferred, or Changed in Name Subsequent to March 4, 1933.

Federal Register (FR) & Code of Federal Regulations(CFR) (incl. List of Sections Affected (LSA))

Federal Register

The Federal Register is an official daily publication of the United States Government (excluding weekends and federal holidays) containing the rules, proposed rules, notices of activity by federal agencies and organizations, and executive documents such as Presidential Proclamations, Executive Orders, and other miscellaneous documents.

The Register issues are arranged by agency as organized in CFR (see below) section order.  Thus, revisions to the CFR are easy to track on an issue-by-issue basis.  Each entry in the Register usually has contact information for an individual within the agency who can provide more information about the item.  These usually provide name, address, phone number, and email address. 

Each Register issue also contains a list of sections affected for that issue.

The Register is available in paper at most libraries for at least the past one or two years.  Older issues are usually available on microform.  There is an online version (both text and PDF) at GPO Access.  The text is searchable by keyword and can be limited to year and document type.  Both Lexis and Westlaw have versions of the Register as well.  A complete set of the Federal Register is available in PDF format from Hein Online (available through the DePaul Law Libraries Database page).


Code of Federal Regulations

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) is the codified general and permanent rules of the executive department and independent federal agencies of the United States.  The code includes presidential proclamations and executive orders (Title 3).  The Code is broken into 50 broad titles, which are divided into chapters that provide the rules of the issuing agency.  These are further divided into parts that cover a specific regulatory area, and, for large parts, these may be divided into sub-parts.  All parts are further divided into sections. Citation is usually to title and section, and year.  Consult the Bluebook for correct citation format.

The only title that isn’t revised is Title 3, which corresponds to the President.  Title 3 contains executive orders, proclamations, and other presidential material.  Every year a new volume is issued that supplements the previous years’ issue.  Libraries keep all issues of Title 3 as part of their CFR collection. .

Only a few titles in the CFR correspond to titles in the U.S. Code by subject.  For example, title 7 in both sets is based on the subject of agriculturetitle 26 in both sets is based on the subject of revenue.  Other titles do not necessarily correspond to their numerical counterpart in the U.S. Code.

The Code is updated on an annual basis with one-fourth of the Code having a revision date at the beginning of a different quarter:

Title 1 through Title 16  ... as of January 1

Title 17 through Title 27  ... as of April 1

Title 28 through Title 41 ... as of July 1

Title 42 through Title 50 ... as of October 1

The annual revisions to the CFR incorporate the changes published in the Federal Register since the last revision of the specific Code volume.

The CFR Index and Finding Aids is a one-volume index to the entire CFR.  The Index has limited utility, as it is very general in scope.  The CFR Index prepared by CIS is a four-volume set that indexes both the CFR and the Federal Register.  The CIS edition is highly detailed and is a better resource than the volume issued by the government.  The CIS set is updated with supplemental pamphlets at various times in the year, and is recompiled annually.

The government edition of the CFR Index contains a Parallel Table of Authority and Rules.  This table cross-references the statutory authority to the rules put in place under that authority.  This table is organized in several parts, utilizing several parallel citation forms:

U.S. Code Section to CFR Citation (Titles 1 – 50)

Statutes At Large Citation to CFR Citation (7 Stat. 491 to present)

Public Law Number to CFR Citation (P.L. 80-806 to present)

Presidential Notices (November 12, 1993 to present)

Presidential Proclamations (April 28, 1916 to present)

Executive Orders (1209 to present)

Presidential Directives (May 17, 1972 to present)

Presidential Memorandums (November 10, 1961)

Presidential Notices (August 3, 2000 to present)

Reorganization Plans (1940 Plan Number 4 to present)

List of Sections Affected

From the GPO Web Site Search Page:

To bring these regulations up to date by Searching or Browsing the online LSA Service: 

(1) consult the most recent issue of the List of CFR Sections Affected (LSA) published after the revision date of the CFR volume you are using) for any changes, additions, or removals; and 

(2) then access the CFR Parts Affected by the Federal Register which is extracted from each issue of the daily Federal Register to assist those monitoring changes on a daily basis. 

The CFR is available in paper in most libraries.  Libraries generally do not keep an archive past one or two years in paper.  Microform is an alternative in this situation.  There are online versions (text and PDF) at GovInfo.govOnline versions of the CFR are on Lexis Advance and Westlaw EdgeLexis Advance and Westlaw Edge also have databases that combine the current Federal Register and the Code of Federal Regulations (see Federal & State Administrative Tab in this guide for Lexis Advance and Westlaw Edge).


Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) - List of Sections Affected (LSA) located at end of CFR Indexes (bottom right in white)

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