Administrative law, commonly called regulatory law, includes those rules and regulations promulgated and enforced by an administrative body—for example, the Department of Labor or the Federal Communications Commission—according to that body’s area
of responsibility, which is set by statute. The US Government Manual or the Federal Regulatory Directory can be used to learn about individual federal agencies and are available at the Law Library Reference Desk. Both of these titles are published annually and include a description of all the executive departments and many independent agencies.
Administrative agencies have two major functions: rulemaking and enforcement (adjudication). The Administrative Procedure Act (5 USC § 551 et seq.) provides the rulemaking requirements, hearing procedures, and adjudicatory standards and procedures for federal agencies. The primary sources for administrative law are the Federal Register, where federal rules and regulations are first published, and the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), which is a codification of those rules and regulations.
The Federal Register, Code of Federal Regulations, and US Government Manual are available for free online at FDsys, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/ (coverage begins in the mid-1990s for each source). Enforcement decisions are published in a variety of case reporting systems -- for instance, the Decisions and Orders of the National Labor Relations Board and FCC Record. Current decisions can also be found on some agency websites. For list of agency websites, see http://www.usa.gov/.
Presidential & Executive Branch Material
Regulations issued by the Executive Office of the President (EOP) and Presidential documents such as executive orders and proclamations are published in the Federal Register and in Title 3 of the Code of Federal Regulations. EOP regulations are codified in the CFR like other federal regulations, while Presidential documents are simply compiled annually. However, the best source for Presidential documents is the Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents because it includes press releases and signing statements as well as executive orders and proclamations (free online at FDsys, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/search/home.action, under “Compilation of Presidential Documents.”) Current Presidential materials are located on the White House website, http:// www.whitehouse.gov. The National Archives website, http://www.archives.gov, also provides a variety of Presidential resources, including Presidential Libraries information; the Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, beginning with Ronald Reagan; and an Executive Orders disposition table that indicates the Orders that have been superseded. The print edition of the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (Call No. KF70 .W284) is located in the closed stacks.
The Federal Register, published daily Monday through Friday, contains proposed, interim, and final rules and regulations; notices of hearings, decisions, investigations, and committee meetings; and Presidential documents. A volume number is assigned each year, and the pagination is continuous throughout the year. A legal citation, 61 FR 60396, refers to the volume number (61) and the page (60396) on which the information is printed. Federal rulemaking requirements provide that agencies publish proposed rules in the Federal Register and accept comments before promulgating a final regulation. When the rule is final, it is published in its entirety in the Federal Register. The print edition of the Federal Register Index is located in the Reading Room. Additionally, the Federal Register is available electronically at any of the Reading Room public computers through subscription databases including HeinOnline, http://eresources.loc.gov/record=e1000300~S9 , and LexisNexis Library Express, http://eresources.loc.gov/record=e1000623~S9; it is also available free online through FDsys, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/.
General and permanent rules that appear in the Federal Register are also published in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), which is the codified form of rules and regulations issued by federal agencies. The CFR is arranged by subject and has fifty (50) titles (or subject areas). The legal citation, 26 CFR §1.101-1, refers to the title number (26) and the section number (1.101-1). The CFR is updated in its entirety every year on a staggered basis, with a quarterly publication of selected titles in January, April, July, and October. Each year the color of the covers changes. The annual publication began in 1967. Prior to 1967, annual pocket parts or supplements were published. Updates to the CFR. that occur between annual publications may be located by using the List of CFR Sections Affected (LSA) and the Federal Register. The LSA is a cumulative monthly publication that lists the titles and sections that have changed and indicates the page on which the change can be found in the Federal Register. If the LSA is not available, the “Reader Aids” section of the Federal Register can be used to determine if any changes occurred during the month. Like the CFR. and FR, the LSA is available on FDSys, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys. The current and prior editions of the Code of Federal Regulations and the List of CFR Sections Affected are located in closed stacks and available on microform or via FDsys (1996 – present) or the subscription database HeinOnline (1938-present) for onsite researchers.
Agency Specific Material
In addition to issuing rules and regulations, administrative agencies typically have the authority to enforce (adjudicate) those rules and regulations through hearing and decision making processes. Agency hearing decisions are published in official reporters and in many commercially published sources. Rulings by an administrative law judge or administrative tribunal are available in both print and electronic formats. For example, administrative hearing opinions from the National Labor Relations Board are available in the print sources Decisions and Orders of the National Labor Relations Board (Government Printing Office) and Labor Relations Reference Manual (Bloomberg BNA), and electronically on the National Labor Relations Board website, http://www.nlrb.gov/. For a listing of official and commercial titles of federal agency decisions, see How to Find the Law, Appendix D (9th ed. 1989)(Call No. KF240 .C538), located at the Reference Desk, or visit the University of Virginia Library’s Administrative Decisions website, http://guides.lib.virginia.edu/administrative_decisions, to see links to collections of online federal administrative agency decisions arranged by agency name and subject.
Some agency rulings or orders are appealed to a United States Court of Appeals. Court decisions in these matters can be found in print sources—for example, Thomson West’s Federal Reporter, or specialty reporters - for example, West’s Veteran’s Appeals Reporter.
Examples of Administrative Materials
Budget of the United States, published by Government Printing Office (GPO)
- Four volumes: (1) Budget (2) Analytical Perspectives (3) Historical Tables (4) Appendix
- Print: Call No. HJ2050
- FDsys (1996-present), http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/
- White House, Office of Management and Budget, http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb
Clean Air Act Regulations
- Code of Federal Regulations, Title 40, Parts 50-99
- US Environmental Protection Agency website, http://www.epa.gov, under “Laws & Regulations”
- FDsys, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/, under “Code of Federal Regulations”
Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences decisions
- United States Patents Quarterly, Call No. KF2975.3 .U55. If you have a citation, go to the volume and page number. If you do not have a citation, the U.S. Patent Quarterly Digest, KF2975.3 .U552,should be used to find the citation.
A listing of agencies with contact information
- United States Government Manual, Call No. JK421 .A3 and free online at FDsys, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/, under “U.S Government Manual”
- Federal Regulatory Directory (Congressional Quarterly), Call No. KF5406.A15 F4
- USA.gov, http://www.usa.gov/, find government information by agency or topic
For further assistance consult a reference librarian at the Law Library Reading Room Reference Desk by calling (202) 707-5080 or by using Ask a Librarian.
Last Updated: 12/30/2020