Research Guide
Federal Administrative Law
Federal Administrative Law Research Guide

New England Law Library
Kristin McCarthy, Reference Librarian
September 2003

Researching Administrative Regulations Researching Administrative Decisions
Selected Treatises (and other materials) Administrative Materials on the Web
(the web (GPO) is the most up-to-date source of Federal Register information; it is updated daily at 6:00 a.m.)

What is Federal Administrative Law?

Federal administrative agencies are given existence and powers by the Congress through enabling legislation. These agencies, in turn, promulgate administrative regulations which, if promulgated within the authority given the agency by its enabling legislation, have the force and effect of law. Some agencies have administrative law judges who issue decisions (within the jurisdiction and authority granted by Congress). In addition to enabling statutes, federal agencies are governed by the federal Administrative Procedures Act (5 USC sec. 551 et seq.), which sets the conditions under which agencies may issue regulations and decisions.


Usually with a set of paperback volumes called the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). The Code of Federal Regulations does not print regulations in chronological order, but divides them up according to broad topics or titles. New England Law Library has one print set of the most recent version of the CFR on the second floor, Stack 1. Print copies of the CFR from the two previous years are also kept in Stack 1. Earlier years are on microfiche in basement cabinet 14. The library online catalog, Portia, also links to a free searchable version of the CFR published by the National Archives and Records Administration on a government site called GPO Access. This website contains copies of the CFR (in pdf as well html format) back to 1997 (1996 for some titles). The CFR is also available through Westlaw and Lexis. The Westlaw database identifier for the Code of Federal Regulations is CFR.

A citation to the Code of Federal Regulations, such as 29 CFR 11.1, refers to section 1 of part 11 in title 29.

  • How do I find material in the Code of Federal Regulations?
There are two indexes to the CFR. CFR Index and Finding Aids is the official version and is the final volume of the CFR set. The commercial index, put out by the Congressional Information Service, is the Index to the Code of Federal Regulations. This multi-volume index is more comprehensive than the official with specific sections cited and more detailed entries. Both the CFR Index and Finding Aids and the Index to the Code of Federal Regulations can be found on the 2nd floor of the library by the CFR set.

In addition to using the indexes, there are other methods of accessing the CFR that may be useful to the researcher. If you are starting with a federal statute, annotated versions of the United States Code sometimes contain references to relevant CFR sections. Online searching allows a researcher to effectively become their own indexer by generating keywords likely to appear in the text of the regulation.

  • How up-to-date is the material in the Code of Federal Regulations?
Each volume of the Code of Federal Regulations is revised once a year but all volumes are not revised at once. A certain number of titles are revised each quarter. Generally (and sometimes titles are not revised on time), the schedule is:

  • Title 1 - 16 ... as of January 1
  • Title 17 - 27 ... as of April 1
  • Title 28 - 41 ... as of July 1
  • Title 42 - 50 ... as of October 1

To see when the volume you are interested in was last revised, look on the front cover of the volume for the month, day and year of revision.

  • Where do I go to update my CFR research?
First, you go to the paperback volumes located at the end of the CFR titles (same color and covers), called the List of CFR Sections Affected (L.S.A.) L.S.A. is published every month and contains updates to the CFR. Check the volumes covering the dates following the date on the cover of the CFR title you were just viewing.

If a section of the CFR has changed, a number will appear after this section. When a section has recently changed, a number will appear after the section. This number refers to pages in another publication called the Federal Register. Sometimes, the L.S.A. will cover more than one year of the Federal Register. In this case, the years will be distinguished by bold and plain typeface.

After you have checked the L.S.A., you must further update your research by checking the issues of the Federal Register with dates later than the last date covered by the L.S.A. (check the front for coverage dates). Each (weekly) issue of the Federal Register has a Reader Aids table at the end, similar to the L.S.A. tables, listing CFR provisions affected by that issue. The last week of the month contains a cumulative table listing the CFR sections affected for the entire month. So you will want to go to the monthly tables and then the weekly tables for the current month. Readers Aids also list telephone help numbers, e-mail and web links which may be useful in updating your research. The most recent 4 years of the Federal Register are in stack 1 on the 2nd floor. Older editions of the Federal Register are in microform in cabinets in the basement. Federal Register coverage in both Westlaw and Lexis begins in 1980. The Westlaw identifier for the Federal Register is FR. The most current source of Federal Register information is the GPO Access website to which our online catalog has a link. This website is updated daily with the Federal Register issue for the day online as of 6:00A.M.

  • What is the relationship between the CFR and the Federal Register?
The CFR contains final administrative regulations divided up by subject matter into titles, whereas the Federal Register contains regulations in chronological order, as promulgated. An analogy might be the relationship between the United States Code and Statutes at Large.
  • Would I use the Federal Register for any reason other than updating research in the CFR?
Yes! In addition to final regulations, the Federal Register publishes Presidential Documents, including Executive orders and proclamations, Proposed Rules, including petitions for rulemaking and other advance proposals, and Notices, including scheduled hearings and meetings open to the public, grant applications, and administrative orders.

Moreover, with the text of a final regulation, the Federal Register includes extensive commentary providing background on the rule, impact statements, interpretation and comments.

  • How do I find cases discussing the regulation's validity?
Since agency actions are subject to judicial review, there is a Shepard's for regulations. Shepard's Code of Federal Regulations Citations lists CFR provisions and the cases, law reviews and annotations discussing them. It is located on the 2nd floor index table in the library. Regulations may also be Shepardized or Keycited online using Lexis or Westlaw.


  • Where do I find reports of administrative decisions?
There are basically three sources to go to for administrative agency decisions: (1) Official administrative publications (a list of such publications can be found on page 187 of The Bluebook); (2) Looseleaf publications. The library contains a variety of looseleaf publications, many of which are located in the 2nd floor government documents collection. Looseleaf publications deal with a particular topic and will often publish regulations, administrative decisions, statutes and cases dealing with a particular issue. They are updated on a continual basis (pages are pulled and replaced with more current ones) and consequently tend to be up-to-date sources of information; and (3) Westlaw and Lexis databases on your specific topic.
  • How do I find cases and other materials discussing and interpreting the decision?
You can Shepardize administrative decisions. Shepard's United States Administrative Citations contains many administrative decisions followed by citing cases, law review articles and ALRs. In addition, Shepard's Labor Law Citations lists cases and law reviews citing National Labor Relations Board decisions. Both are located on the 2nd floor index table in the library.
SELECTED TREATISES (and other materials)

Aman, Alfred C.
Administrative Law
St. Paul, Minn. : West Group, 2001.
CALL NUMBER: KF5402 .A8 2001 (reserve)

Borchers, Patrick J
Administrative Law [sound recording]
Chicago, IL : Gilbert Law Summaries, 1997.
CALL NUMBER: KF5402 .B67 1997 (reserve)

Chanin, Leah (ed.)
Specialized Legal Research
Boston : Little, Brown, 1987.
CALL NUMBER: KF240 .S64 1987 (topical agency research tips)

Culp, Kenneth Davis
Administrative Law Treatise
Boston : Little, Brown, 1994.
CALL NUMBER: KF5402 .D3 1994 (reserve)

Finz, Steven R.
Administrative Law [sound recording]
Los Angeles, CA : West Professional Training Programs, 1995.
CALL NUMBER: KF5402 .F56 1995 (reserve)

Norris, Jeffrey
How to Take a Case Before the NLRB
Washington, DC : Bureau of National Affairs, 1992.
CALL NUMBER: KF5402 .A4 G4 1995 (reserve)

Funk, William F.
Administrative Law : Examples and Explanations
New York : Aspen Law & Business, 2001.
CALL NUMBER: KF5402.A4 F86 2001 (reserve)

Willis, John W. (ed.)
Pike and Fischer Administrative Law, Third Series
Bethesda, MD : Pike & Fischer, 1989
CALL NUMBER: KF5402 .P5x 1989 (multi-volume looseleaf)