Code, U.S.

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CODE, U.S. The United States Code is a large, multi-volume consolidation and codification of the general and permanent laws of the United States. The volumes are arranged into fifty titles according to subject matter. The Code does not contain regulations issued by federal agencies, decisions of the federal courts, laws enacted by state or local governments, or treaties.

Before 1926 federal statutory law was extremely difficult to research. Federal statutes enacted before 1875 appeared in one volume, Revised Statutes of the United States (1875), but this volume contained inaccuracies. Laws adopted after 1875 were published periodically in chronological order in volumes of the United States Statutes at Large without subject matter organization or a cumulative index. In 1926, Congress approved the publication of the Code, bringing together all valid federal laws in one publication arranged by subject matter.

After publication, however, the Code was never submitted to Congress in its entirety to be enacted into positive law. A statute's text appearing in the Code therefore was considered only prima facie evidence of the law. The authoritative source for the text of federal laws was still the United States Statutes at Large. Congress responded to this peculiarity by creating the Office of the Law Revision Counsel, charged with revising the Code and with submitting individual titles to Congress for enactment into positive law. By the beginning of the twenty-first century, less than half of the titles had been revised and enacted into law. The text of titles enacted into positive law is legal evidence of the law contained in those titles; other titles of the Code remain as prima facie evidence only.

Each title of the Code is divided into chapters that in turn are divided into sections. Citations to the Code indicate the title and section numbers and the year of publication, for example, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1996). The Code is published a new every six years, and cumulative supplements are issued during the intervening years.


Cohen, Morris, Robert C. Berring, and Kent C. Olson. How to Find the Law. St. Paul, Minn.: West, 1989.

Jacobstein, J. Myron, Roy M. Mersky, and Donald J. Dunn. Fundamentals of Legal Research. 7th ed. New York: Foundation Press, 1998.

U.S. House of Representatives, Office of the Law Revision Counsel.


See alsoCongress, United States .

U.S. Code

views updated Jun 27 2018


A multivolume publication of the text of statutes enacted by Congress.

Until 1926, the positive law for federal legislation was published in one volume of the Revised Statutes of 1875, and then in each sub-sequent volume of the statutes at large. In 1925, Congress authorized the preparation of the U.S. Code and appointed a revisor of statutes to extract all the sections of the Revised Statutes of 1875 that had not been repealed and all of the public laws that were still in effect from the Statutes at Large since 1873. These laws were rearranged into fifty titles and published in four volumes as the U.S. Code, 1926 edition. Thereafter, an annual cumulative supplement containing all the laws passed since 1926 was published. In 1932, a new edition of the code was published, which incorporated the cumulative supplements to the 1926 edition. This became the U.S. Code, 1932 edition. Every six years, a new edition of the code is published, incorporating the annual cumulative supplements prepared since the previous edition.

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United States Code