All citizens of the United States of America should understand the implication of statutory law. Statutes are "law(s) passed by a legislative body, including legislatures, administrative boards, and municipal courts." In laymen's terms, a statute is a written and promulgated law that binds the citizens of its country. Here in the United States of America, all of our Federal statutes are published as part of the United States Code (USC). This multi-volume set divides up various laws into Titles and subsections. However, anyone who has had to look up a statute understands that the terminology the legislature used doesn't always make clear or even moderate sense. For people in the legal field, understanding the terms of the law is essential. This is where two important publications come into play -- one by Westlaw and one by LexisNexis. These are the United States Code Annotated (USCA) and the United States Code Service (USCS). Essentially, these series are the USC with annotations.
To clarify further, let's use a specific example. I'm currently studying Bankruptcy Law, so let's pull up a section from Title 11, which deals with bankruptcy on a federal level. Here's the original section -- 11 USC 109:
"(a)Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, only a person that resides or has a domicile, a place of business, or property in the United States, or a municipality, may be a debtor under this title.
(b)A person may be a debtor under chapter 7 of this title only if such person is not—
(2)a domestic insurance company, bank, savings bank, cooperative bank, savings and loan association, building and loan association, homestead association, a New Markets Venture Capital company as defined in section 351 of the Small Business Investment Act of 1958, a small business investment company licensed by the Small Business Administration under section 301 of the Small Business Investment Act of 1958, credit union, or industrial bank or similar institution which is an insured bank as defined in section 3(h) of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act, except that an uninsured State member bank, or a corporation organized under section 25A of the Federal Reserve Act, which operates, or operates as, a multilateral clearing organization pursuant to section 409 of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Improvement Act of 1991 may be a debtor if a petition is filed at the direction of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System; or
(A)a foreign insurance company, engaged in such business in the United States; or
(B)a foreign bank, savings bank, cooperative bank, savings and loan association, building and loan association, or credit union, that has a branch or agency (as defined in section 1(b) of the International Banking Act of 1978) in the United States.
(c)An entity may be a debtor under chapter 9 of this title if and only if such entity—
(1)is a municipality;
(2)is specifically authorized, in its capacity as a municipality or by name, to be a debtor under such chapter by State law, or by a governmental officer or organization empowered by State law to authorize such entity to be a debtor under such chapter;
(4)desires to effect a plan to adjust such debts; and
(A)has obtained the agreement of creditors holding at least a majority in amount of the claims of each class that such entity intends to impair under a plan in a case under such chapter;
(B)has negotiated in good faith with creditors and has failed to obtain the agreement of creditors holding at least a majority in amount of the claims of each class that such entity intends to impair under a plan in a case under such chapter;
(C)is unable to negotiate with creditors because such negotiation is impracticable; or
(D)reasonably believes that a creditor may attempt to obtain a transfer that is avoidable under section 547 of this title.
(d)Only a railroad, a person that may be a debtor under chapter 7 of this title (except a stockbroker or a commodity broker), and an uninsured State member bank, or a corporation organized under section 25A of the Federal Reserve Act, which operates, or operates as, a multilateral clearing organization pursuant to section 409 of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Improvement Act of 1991 may be a debtor under chapter11 of this title.
(e)Only an individual with regular income that owes, on the date of the filing of the petition, noncontingent, liquidated, unsecured debts of less than $250,000 and noncontingent, liquidated, secured debts of less than $750,000, or an individual with regular income and such individual’s spouse, except a stockbroker or a commodity broker, that owe, on the date of the filing of the petition, noncontingent, liquidated, unsecured debts that aggregate less than $250,000 and noncontingent, liquidated, secured debts of less than $750,000 may be a debtor under chapter 13 of this title.
(f)Only a family farmer or family fisherman with regular annual income may be a debtor under chapter 12 of this title.
(g)Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, no individual or family farmer may be a debtor under this title who has been a debtor in a case pending under this title at any time in the preceding 180 days if—
(1)the case was dismissed by the court for willful failure of the debtor to abide by orders of the court, or to appear before the court in proper prosecution of the case; or
(2)the debtor requested and obtained the voluntary dismissal of the case following the filing of a request for relief from the automatic stay provided by section 362 of this title.
(1)Subject to paragraphs (2) and (3), and notwithstanding any other provision of this section other than paragraph (4) of this subsection, an individual may not be a debtor under this title unless such individual has, during the 180-day period ending on the date of filing of the petition by such individual, received from an approved nonprofit budget and credit counseling agency described in section 111(a) an individual or group briefing (including a briefing conducted by telephone or on the Internet) that outlined the opportunities for available credit counseling and assisted such individual in performing a related budget analysis.
(A)Paragraph (1) shall not apply with respect to a debtor who resides in a district for which the United States trustee (or the bankruptcy administrator, if any) determines that the approved nonprofit budget and credit counseling agencies for such district are not reasonably able to provide adequate services to the additional individuals who would otherwise seek credit counseling from such agencies by reason of the requirements of paragraph (1).
(B)The United States trustee (or the bankruptcy administrator, if any) who makes a determination described in subparagraph (A) shall review such determination not later than 1 year after the date of such determination, and not less frequently than annually thereafter. Notwithstanding the preceding sentence, a nonprofit budget and credit counseling agency may be disapproved by the United States trustee (or the bankruptcy administrator, if any) at any time.
(A)Subject to subparagraph (B), the requirements of paragraph (1) shall not apply with respect to a debtor who submits to the court a certification that—
(i)describes exigent circumstances that merit a waiver of the requirements of paragraph (1);
(ii)states that the debtor requested credit counseling services from an approved nonprofit budget and credit counseling agency, but was unable to obtain the services referred to in paragraph (1) during the 7-day period beginning on the date on which the debtor made that request; and
(iii)is satisfactory to the court.
(B)With respect to a debtor, an exemption under subparagraph (A) shall cease to apply to that debtor on the date on which the debtor meets the requirements of paragraph (1), but in no case may the exemption apply to that debtor after the date that is 30 days after the debtor files a petition, except that the court, for cause, may order an additional 15 days.
(4)The requirements of paragraph (1) shall not apply with respect to a debtor whom the court determines, after notice and hearing, is unable to complete those requirements because of incapacity, disability, or active military duty in a military combat zone. For the purposes of this paragraph, incapacity means that the debtor is impaired by reason of mental illness or mental deficiency so that he is incapable of realizing and making rational decisions with respect to his financial responsibilities; and “disability” means that the debtor is so physically impaired as to be unable, after reasonable effort, to participate in an in person, telephone, or Internet briefing required under paragraph (1)."
Now this section may make some sense to you; however, the terms and specifics of interpretation may be a bit muddy. This is where the USCA and USCS come into play. Both publications include various summary notations as well as references to case law, additional statutes, and other secondary sources to assist the reader with attaining a more complete understanding of what the statute really says.
The USCA is set up in the following manner:
The statute is listed in full.
They provide Historical and Statutory Notes that go into the legislative history of the statute section and how it came to be. This section includes prior Acts, references in the text, and amendments and provisions.
Cross References with other sections of the USC.
Law Review and Journal Commentaries. The citations and a brief blurb about the topic are included.
Library References - these refer to sections within various series including:
American Digest System
Corpus Juris Secundum
American Law Reports
Encyclopedias such as American Jurisprudence
Treatises & Practice Aids
Westlaw Electronic Research - this section lists out all of the terms that are associated in the Westlaw system with this particular statute. These search terms (or key numbers) will further assist your research.
Notes of Decisions - This portion is one of the most valuable for the USCA. It includes, by topic/search term, explanatory case law that elucidates various aspects of the statutory language.
The USCS is similar to the USCA. It is set up in the following manner:
The entire text of the actual statute.
History: Ancillary Laws and Directives. This section includes prior law and revisions as well as amendments.
Commentary. This section elucidates various situations where this statute is commonly used and explains the importance of this interpretation.
Law Review Articles
Interpretive Notes and Decisions. This section lists out all of the topics associated with the particular code section and then lists the case law interpreting those areas along with additional case law supporting it.
As always with legal research, make sure that you update your law. Both the USCA and USCS published pocket parts. These are added to the back of each volume and include all updates to any particular section within that volume.