- This guide addresses federal administrative law research in general. Please consult topical research guides for information related to specific subject matter and agency procedures.
Federal administrative law is comprised of rules and regulations promulgated by executive branch agencies, as well as related adjudications, orders, and other agency actions. It also includes executive orders and proclamations.
Administrative rules and regulations are published sequentially in the Federal Register (FR) and later codified by subject in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Agency case law is available in popular online legal resources (e.g. Westlaw, Lexis), on agency websites, and in specialized agency publications particularly those in looseleaf format or digital equivalent.
While federal agencies are part of the Executive Branch, they are authorized to act through congressional delegation through statute, commonly referred to as “enabling statutes.” Thus, agencies are limited to taking action within the authority delegated to them in the United States Code. Annotations to the U.S. Code often provide information about related regulations. Researchers may also wish to consult the CFR’s Parallel Table of Authorities and Rules to match U.S. Code provisions with implementing regulations. Agencies are also required to comply with the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et. seq. These requirements include providing the public with notice of rulemaking, the text of proposed rules, and the opportunity to comment.
If is often useful to begin federal administrative law research by visiting the website of the agency with authority to regulate the applicable subject matter. These websites typically provide an overview of the agency’s structure, current regulations, administrative decisions, and guidance documents.
Several reference resources below may be useful to help determine the appropriate agency or agencies that have jurisdiction over the relevant subject matter.
- Blackletter Statement on Federal Administrative Law, ABA Section on Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice, KF 5407. B53 REFERENCE (2013).
- Federal Administrative Procedure Sourcebook, by Will F. Funk et. al., KF 5406. A3 REFERENCE (2008).
- Federal Regulatory Directory: The Essential Guide to the History, Organization, and Impact of U.S. Federal Regulation, KF 5406.A15 F4 REFERENCE (2012). Includes agency profiles and contact information (also CQ Press Library).
- Federal Rulemaking Process: An Overview (2013), Congressional Research Service Report.
- Federal Staff Directory, JK 723. E9 F44 REFERENCE(2012).
- A Guide to Federal Agency Adjudication, Jeffrey B. Litwak, ed., KF 5407. G838 REFERENCE(2012).
- A Guide to Federal Agency Rulemaking, by Jeffrey F. Lubbers, KF 5411 .L83 REFERENCE (2012).
- Sourcebook of United States Executive Agencies, by David E. Lewis & Jennifer L. Selin, Administrative Conference of the United States website (also HeinOnline).
- USA.gov Listing of federal government departments and agencies.
- United States Government Manual, Government Documents AE 2.108/2 (2013). The “official handbook of the Federal Government,” includes information about all agencies including: lists of agency officials, summaries of agencies’ histories, missions, and programs. The Manual is published annually as a special edition of the Federal Register (also FDsys 1995- , HeinOnline 1935- ).
- Washington Information Directory, Reference F 192.3 W33 (2013). Search for federal agencies by subject, includes agency descriptions and links (also CQ Press Library).
- Administrative Law, by Alfred C. Aman, Jr. and William T. Mayton, Reserve KF 5402 .A8 (2001) (also West Study Aids).
- Administrative Law, by Jacob A. Stein, Glenn A. Mitchell, Basil J. Mezines (Lexis).
- Administrative Law and Practice, by Charles H. Koch, Jr. (Westlaw).
- Administrative Law and Process in a Nutshell, by Ernest Gelhorn and Ronald M. Levin. Reserve KF 5402. Z9 (2006).
- Administrative Law Treatise (5th ed.), by Richard J. Pierce, Jr. (formerly with Kenneth Culp Davis). KF 5402 .P54 (2010).
- Administrative Rulemaking: Structuring, Opposing, and Defending Federal Agency Regulations, by James T. O'Reilly. KF 5411 .073 (2014).
- Independent Agencies in the United States: Law, Structure, and Politics, by Marshall J. Breger and Gary J. Edles (Oxford Scholarship Online).
- Pike & Fischer Administrative Law, KF 5401. A52. (First floor, Range 115). This is an extensive multi-volume loose-leaf service. (also Bloomberg Law)
- West’s Federal Administrative Practice, multiple authors (Westlaw).
The New Deal era of the 1930s resulted in a marked increase in federal regulation. At that time, there was no central repository for federal rules and regulations. Executive branch agencies would print regulations in different publications such as gazettes, bulletins, and notices. To simplify public access to administrative law, Congress passed the Federal Register Act, 49 Stat. 500 (1935) (44 U.S.C. Chapter 15), requiring that the National Archives publish all rules and regulations in the Federal Register. The first Federal Register was issued on March 14, 1936
Materials published in the Federal Register include Presidential documents (proclamations, executive orders, and other executive documents); notices of proposed rules, hearings, and meetings; proposed rules and regulations; and rules and regulations adopted by executive agencies. The Federal Register is published every federal work day.
Since 1938 adopted rules and regulations are also published in the Code of Federal Regulations (44 U.S.C. § 1510). Regulations are arranged by subject and agency, and organized into 50 different titles. Many, though not all of these titles, correspond to similar U.S. Code subjects. Within each title, regulations are organized by agency instead of subject.
CFR Volumes are now updated once each calendar year and is issued on a quarterly basis:
Titles 1-16 January
Titles 17-27 April
Titles 28-41 July
Titles 42-50 October
- Print (First Floor Range 102)
- FR: Past two years
- CFR: Current
- Microfiche (First Floor Room 136)
- CFR: 1938-
- FR (Federal Register Library): PDF 1936-
- CFR (Code of Federal Regulations Collection): PDF 1938-
- FR: 1936-
- CFR: current, CFR Historical 1984-, CFR Index (link from CFR Table of Contents page)
- FR: 1936-
- CFR: 1981-
- FR: 1999- (advanced search), 1936- (by citation)
- CFR: current
- FR: 1994-
AGENCY DECISIONS AND ORDERS
Pursuant to statute some agency final orders and rules are subject to review in federal courts. Be certain to update your research by reviewing applicable court decisions. The resources listed provide varied coverage of decisions of select federal agencies. Consult specific agency websites for recent agency decisions and orders.
- WestlawNext: Federal Administrative Decisions and Guidance
- Lexis Advance: Search Administrative Materials/ U.S. Federal.
- Bloomberg Law: Search Legislative & Regulatory> U.S. Government Departments & Agencies; filter Administrative Orders & Decisions
- HeinOnline : U.S. Federal Agency Documents, Decisions, and Appeals Collection
- Pike & Fischer Administrative Law: KF 5401. A52. (First floor, Range 115).
- LLMC Digital: Collection includes historical U.S. administrative decisions.
Executive Orders & Other Presidential Documents
Presidential documents include executive orders and proclamations. These may be found in the Federal Register and in Title 3 of the Code of Federal Regulations. The most comprehensive source for presidential documents is the Compilation of Presidential Documents (formerly the “Weekly” Compilation and since 2009 the “Daily” Compilations). This contains executive orders and proclamations as well as nominations, announcements, transcripts of speeches, and press conferences. Another useful resource containing a variety of presidential documents is the Public Papers of the Presidents.
Compilation of Presidential Documents
- Print Volumes 1-36 (1965-2000), J 80. A284 (Range 101)
- The American Presidency Project (1977-)
- FDsys (1993-)
- HeinOnline (U.S. Presidential Library) (1965-)
- LLMC Digital (Law Library Microform Consortium) Volumes 1-34 (1965-1999)
- Westlaw Next (1993-)
(search: “Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents”)
- Also “Presidential Documents”: Executive orders (1936-) other documents (1984-)
- White House (current administration)
Public Papers of the Presidents
- FDsys (1991-)
- HeinOnline (1931-)
- The American Presidency Project (University of California) (1929-)
- University of Michigan Digital Library: The Public Papers of the Presidents (1929-2001)
Note that the official version of the CFR is the print version (or equivalent PDF) published by the U.S. Government Printing Office. To cite regulations not yet appearing in the print CFR, cite to the Federal Register as described in Blue Book Rule 14.2.
Continuously updated versions of the CFR
- e-CFR (GPO)
- Shepards is also available for regulations
- Keycite is also available for regulations
Current Awareness/Tracking Regulations
- Bloomberg BNA Libraries legal, tax, regulatory, and business information
- Center for Effective Government (formerly OMB Watch)
- Justia Regulation Tracker Search and Track Regulations (2005-)
- OMB Papers on Centralized Regulatory Review (Center for Regulatory Effectiveness)
- Reginfo.gov Includes
current and historical editions of the Unified Agenda and
Regulatory Plans (Fall 2005- ).
- The Unified Agenda is published bi-annually and provides uniform reporting of data on regulatory and deregulatory activities under development throughout the Federal Government, covering approximately 60 departments, agencies, and commissions. The Unified Agenda is also published in the Federal Register.
- Regulations.gov is the official docket system for public comments. The site includes supporting materials provided by federal agencies.
- Scout (Sunlight Foundation) set up alerts on regulatory issues
Journals & Blogs
- ABA Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice
- Index to Legal Periodicals and Books Electronic database provides indexing of legal periodicals and books from 1908, full-text for more recent articles.
- Notice and Comment Blog
- Reg Blog (Penn Program on Regulation)
Other Useful Websites
- Administrative Conference of the United States
- FedStats Information about statistical information provided by U.S. agencies
- FOIA.gov Guidance on making information requests from U.S. agencies
- Regulatory Information Service Center (General Services Administration) Publishes the Unified Agenda and The Regulatory Plan
- Guide to the Law Online: United States Executive (Library of Congress)
- FOIA.gov Guidance on making information requests from U.S. agencies
- USA.gov federal government's main portal for citizen access
Last edited May 6, 2015