The two official government sources for federal rules and regulations are the Federal Register and the Code of Federal Regulations ("CFR"). Both are available in print and electronic formats.
The Federal Register is a chronological compilation of policies, rules and regulations promulgated by federal agencies every business day. The Federal Register is divided into sections for notices, proposed rules, final rules, etc. Unless a regulation is published in the Federal Register, it has no legal effect.
The Code of Federal Regulations ("CFR") is a codification of all final rules and regulations from the Federal Register, compiled by title. 44 U.S.C. §1510(e) (2000) provides that the CFR is prima facie evidence of the text of the rules and regulations. Regulations are continuously being updated and it is imperative to check the appropriate Federal Register resources for changes and updates.
Major Sources for the Federal Register and the Code of Federal Regulations:
The U.S. Government Printing Office's Federal Digital System provides free access to the Federal Register and the Code of Federal Regulations.
HeinOnline’s Federal Register Library contains the full-text of the Federal Register beginning with the inception of the Federal Register in 1936 and the annual Federal Register Indexes beginning with Volume 1.
On LexisNexis, the Code of Federal Regulations can be searched by subject or by table of contents by selecting: Legal > Federal Legal-U.S. > CFR - Code of Federal Regulations. The Federal Register can be searched by selecting: Legal > Federal Legal- U.S. > FR - Federal Register.
On Westlaw, the databases for the Code of Federal Regulations are: CFR for current data; and CFRYY for historical data for individual years from 1984 forward (e.g. CFR99). The databases for the Federal Register are: FR for Federal Register coverage from 1981 to present; FR-ALL for Federal Register coverage from January 1936 to present; FR-TOC for Federal Register Tables of Contents from January 1993 to present; and, FR-OLD for Federal Register Archive from 1936 -1980. There are databases for searching the Code of Federal Regulations and the Federal Register by area of practice.
Other Regulatory Sources:
Many federal rules and regulations are also published in topical looseleaf services (many are available electronically) which may additionally contain statutes, court opinions, administrative agency rulings and decisions, and commentary. The two main publishers/vendors of the looseleaf services and databases are the Bureau of National Affairs (BNA) and CCH. Check the Law Library’s WebCatalog to determine available looseleaf services and databases on a particular topic or the Law Library's database page.
Background Information on Agencies:
For help in determining which agency has jurisdiction over a particular subject matter and for developing an understanding of that agency, use the United States Government Manual (Reference, JK421.A3). As the official handbook of the federal government, the Manual contains information regarding the agencies of the three branches of government. A typical description in the U.S. Government Manual of a federal government agency consists of a brief statement of the agency’s history, purpose, programs and activities. Telephone numbers for more information are provided. The URLs for various government agency websites are also included. Appendix C is an alphabetical listing of the federal agencies with references to the CFR title(s),subchapter(s) or parts(s) in which each agency’s regulations are codified. The Manual is available from the GPO Federal Digital System.