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LL.M. Research Guide


The United States Code is published by the government and contains only the text of the federal statutes. An annotated code (like Westlaw’s United States Code Annotated) includes not only the text of the statute but summaries of cases and law journal articles interpreting the statute, and other research help.

There are multiple ways to find statutes within Westlaw and depending on the information you have, some ways are more efficient. We will be using various statutory sections of the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Finding Statutes By Citation

16 USCA 1538

Enter citation in the top search box from the main WestlawNext screen.

See the text of the statute as well as the statutory scheme at the top – that this is codified in Title 16 USC (Conservation), Chapter 35 Endangered Species. Statutory history is at the bottom of the page under Credits. This tells you when the statute was first enacted, and then later amended, and by what public laws. On the top right, and at the bottom, are Notes of Decisions. Notes of Decisions are case summaries written by West’s attorney-editors and they summarize points of law interpreting the statute; these cases are handpicked by West. Notes of Decisions are organized by headings and subheadings and are a good way to pinpoint potentially relevant cases interpreting your statute. Notes of Decisions within statutes is one of the first places I would start to look for relevant cases.

Also notice the Table of Contents link which appears at the top any time you are viewing a statutory section. This allows you to see your statute section in context with surrounding statutes.

To get to journal articles discussing this statute, click on Context & Analysis tab. This is a selective list of law review articles, encyclopedia articles, treatises, etc.

For a computer-generated list of any sources in the database that cite to the statute, click the Citing References tab.  Navigate the results by type under View, left frame. Select Cases to view cases that have cited this statute.  You can search the full text of these cases using the Search withing Results box.  Search "spotted owl."  You can further narrow down by jurisdiction.  Click on the plus next to Federal and check Supreme Court. 

Finding Statutes By Popular Name

When Congress passes a law, it usually consists of many different sections which are incorporated/codified into the United States Code. Westlaw’s USCA has a Popular Name Table to help you find the entire act as well as the individual statutory sections. Go to the Browse box on the main Westlaw page, select the Federal Materials tab, and then select United States Code Annotated. Under Tools & Resources, click USCA Popular Name Table. Browse for ESA or the full title. See where sections of the original act or public law (Pub.L. 93–205) were codified in the USCA. The original act was passed in 1973 and has been amended several times (see Amending Laws at bottom of page).

Finding Statutes By Topic

If you do not know the citation of the law, use the USCA index to find the relevant statute.  Go to the Browse box on the main Westlaw page, select the Federal Materials tab, and then select United States Code Annotated. Under Tools & Resources, click United States Code Annotated Index.  Select E and scroll down to Endangered Species.  The Endangered Species index will open.  Scroll down to Prohibited Acts.  Two sections are suggested: 16 USCA § 1538 describes the prohibitions and 16 USCA § 1539 lists the exceptions.

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