Code of Federal Regulations

Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) in the United States

Federal regulations are created and used by executive agencies to implement and enforce the goals and scope of the U.S. federal statutes.

The regulations are first published in the Federal Register on a daily basis are then codified in the CFR.

The regulations that are published chronologically in the Federal Register are codified and arranged by title, then by chapter (one agency’s regulations) and finally by subject in the Code of Federal Regulations.

Legal Materials

Final regulations promulgated by Federal administrative agencies are first published in the Federal Register and then codified in the multi-volume Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).

The GPO posts an electronic edition of the official CFR, as well as an unofficial but more current e-CFR. The official CFR is also accessible through Cornell’s Legal Information Institute, FDsys and FindLaw. Fee-based providers include Lexis (GENFED;CFR), Westlaw (CFR), Loislaw and Versuslaw.

To pull a CFR section off Lexis or Westlaw, use the format: 47 CFR 22.137.

One quarter of the print CFR is updated in each quarter of the year (schedule postedhere). The official electronic version provided by the GPO follow this pattern too. However, Westlaw, Lexis and the free e-CFR integrate new Final regulations into the text of their CFR editions throughout the year, so the e-CFR is usually just a day or two shy of current; the the Westlaw and Lexis versions are usually just a little behind that.

Updating the CFR: Usually I avoid the need to update the CFR by using the e-CFR, but sometimes you might want to start with the official CFR and bring it up-to-date. One free and relatively easy way to do this is to find up the section in the CFR edition by the Legal Information Institute, click on the “Currency” tab, and you will either see that the section is current or you will get links to the Federal Register pages where the section has been changed. You can also do this by getting a KeyCite report on the relevant CFR section(s) from Westlaw.

Alternatively, the traditional way to update the official CFR is to check the “List of CFR Section Affected” published in each issue of the Federal Register since the section in question was last updated. You can do this with the print issues (if you have them) or on FDsys. Note: To update the CFR on FDsys, the GPO says, “We prefer consulting theList of Parts Effected …. Just ‘Choose Date Range’ in the pull down menu. Enter the date when your title was last updated in the Annual Code of Federal Regulations and today’s date. This search will link to the Federal Register page whenever a change has been made to your Title and Part since the Annual Code of Regulations was last updated.”

If you would have to look through many issues, search the section number in the electronic “List of CFR Section Affected” on FDsys, with the date restricted appropriately. Alternatively, you can use FDsys to compile all the new regulations since the section was last affected, and then look through the new regulations that affect your Title and Part of the CFR.

Index/Finding sections by subject matter: There is a fairly poor Index volume at the end of the print CFR. Westlaw publishes a better multi-volume index, which is available in print or through the RegulationsPlus feature on Westlaw. Alternatively, you can search for a subject using key terms in any of the electronic CFR editions discussed above.

Relation to the U.S. Code: To find out which CFR sections were authorized by a given section of the United States Code, you can:

  • Search the GPO’s e-CFR using the format “__ U.S.C. __” with the pull-down menu switched to the “Authority” field. I have found this to be fast, free and generally effective.
  • Search for the USC section in a CFR database on Lexis (GENFED;FEDREG) or Westlaw (CFR), LOIS, Versuslaw, Quicklaw America or any other good CFR database.
  • Pull up the USC section on Westlaw and look in the ResultsPlus column for Administrative Code.
  • Use the GPO’s Parallel Table of Authorities and Rules, which is also published in the “Index and Finding Aids to Code of Federal Regulations” volume at the end of the United States Code Service. This is the most official tool, but it does not necessarily get all the related CFR sections.
  • Call the relevant administrative agency, because the USCS & CFR Tables, even keyword searching, may not be comprehensive and are always at least a little behind the times. Do this in addition to the ideas above when you have to be 100% accurate.

Relation to Case Law: To get cases related to a particular section of the CFR, Shepardize it, using hard copy or Lexis or use KeyCite on Westlaw. Also, if you bring up a section on Westlaw, you can see case annotations in the “Regulations Plus” column.

Historical Editions: Historical editions of the CFR are available from:

  • FDsys back to 1996 (free);
  • Lexis has a CFR Archive database (CODES;CFRARC) containing editions back to 1981 (fee-based);
  • Westlaw has individual databases for old CFRs back to 1984 (CFRxx, with the Xs being the last two digits of the year), and “Results Plus” lets you pull up a version as it existed on a particular date (fee-based);
  • HeinOnline has historical editions covering 1938 to 1983 (subscription);
  • Proquest Congressional has a searchable archive of CFR editions back to 1981; information available here (subscription);
  • Some large law libraries keep historical CFRs, either in hard copy or on microfiche or microfilm.

Proposed Regulations: To find the text of a proposed regulation, search the Federal Register (see “Federal Register”). If you know the final version is already in the CFR, check the preamble of the final reg. This often has the Federal Register cite where the proposed reg. was published. Otherwise, search on the “RIN” number listed at the beginning of the regulation in a CFR database ? that is a unique identifier that should bring up all the documents associated with that regulation.

Statement of Considerations: The term “Statement of Considerations” or “SOCs” (pronounced “socks”) effectively means the preamble, appendices and other materials that the agency published in the Federal Register before and after proposed and final regulations that created and amended a CFR section. I have heard the term used only with regard to regulations by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Appendices, Citing to: As of 2010, the Bluebook did not have a rule for citing to an Appendix in the CFR. John Cannan explores the options in “Beyond the Pale: Finding Your Way Back From a Citation Netherworld,” 53(4) Law Library Lights 14 (Summer 2010).

See also entries for individual agencies. For further discussion of Federal regulations see Fundamentals of Legal Research (West).


In the early 1930’s, Congress began to increase both the number of agencies and the scope of the authority of those agencies. Thefrerore, the executive federal agencies began promulgating detailed regulations. In that period of time, there was no mechanism for publishing, codifying, accessing or updating these regulations. “There was considerable confusion about which regulations were in effect at any given time. In several 1934 Supreme Court cases involving administrative law violations, difficulty in keeping abreast of the current body of administrative law became obvious. Neither the defendants nor the government correctly understood which regulations were currently in effect. In response, Congress passed the Federal Register Act (ch. 417, 49 Stat. 500 (1935)). The Act mandates the daily publication of the Federal Register, whose purpose is to serve as a central repository of the publication of all newly adopted rules and regulations. Furthermore, publication in this periodical is constructive notice to all who may be affected by a regulation.

Although the Federal Register was helpful in notifying the government and people of changes and additions to federal regulations, the regulations were still not codified. Congress amended the Federal Register Act in 1937 to require codification and subject access to the regulations through publication in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). The first CFR was published in 1939.” (1)


“The purpose of the CFR was/is to provide a system of categorization whereby all the regulations promulgated [created] by a federal department or agency on a given subject can be located and tied to the corresponding statute. The CFR does an admirable job of providing that service.

It is beyond Congress’ ability to be experts in every field concerning which it may be called upon to legislate. The US Supreme Court has referred to the text of Congressional legislation as “the broad language of the statute”, which often times requires more detail to be properly placed into effect. These “details” are found in the “implementing regulations” promulgated by the agencies that must administrate and/or enforce a statute. Federal agencies are charged with faithful implementation and enforcement of the laws [statutes] through the regulations they promulgate. Although properly speaking, regulations are not law, rules and regulations have the full force and effect of the law.

It should be noted that federal statutes, as well as their associated regulations, only have force and effect upon those persons who are properly within federal jurisdiction, and has no force or effect upon anyone else.

In 1946 the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) was passed clarifying the process of making regulation, allowing for greater accessibility and participation by all citizens. The APA required the publication in the Federal Register of all proposed rule changes and a period for public comment. Proposed and final regulations that have general applicability and legal effect are required to be published in the Federal Register. The administrative regulation-making process requires that proposed regulations be published and that a comment period be provided. When the comment period closes, the agency may finalize the regulation. Once the regulation becomes final, it is published again in the Federal Register and then codified into the Code of Federal Regulations.

In 1990 the regulatory landscape was changed yet again by passage of the Negotiated Rulemaking Act of 1990 (NRA) [currently codified to 5 U.S.C §§ 561-570]. The NRA allows for greater involvement by affected parties in the drafting of regulations. Changes under NRA are more procedural than substantive and need not be addressed further in this document.” (2)

Case Law relating with CFR

  • “… we think it’s important to note that the Act’s civil and criminal penalties attach only upon violation of regulations promulgated by the Secretary; if the Secretary were to do nothing, the Act would impose no penalties on anyone” (California Banking Association v. Schultz, 416 US 21, 1974)
  • “Although the relevant statute authorized the Secretary to impose such a duty, his implementing regulation did not do so. Therefore we held that there was no duty to disclose…”(United States V. Murphy, 809 F.2d 142, 1431)
  • “The reporting act is not self-executing; it can impose no duties until implementing regulations have been promulgated.” (California Bankers Ass’n v. Schultz, 416 US 21)
  • “For federal tax purposes, federal regulations govern.” (Lyeth v. Hoey, 305 US 188, 59 S. Ct 155)
  • “…failure to adhere to agency regulations may amount to a denial of due process if the regulations are required by constitution or statute.” (Arzanipour v. Immigration and Naturalization Service, 866 F. 2d 743 746, 5th Cir. 1989)
  • Administrative agency may not, under guise of its rulemaking power, abridge or enlarge its authority or act beyond powers given it by statute which is source of its power; administrative regulations that alter or amend statute or enlarge or impair its scope are void. (San Bernardino Valley Audubon Soc. V. City of Moreno Valley, 51 Cal.Rptr.2d. 897 (1996, Cal.App. 4th Dist)
  • “…power to issue regulations is not power to change the law…”(US v. New England Coal and Coke Company 318 F.2d 138, 1963)

About the CFR

Each title is divided into chapters, subchapters, parts, and sections.

The soft-cover volumes of the CFR are issued each year in sets on a staggered, quarterly basis:
Titles 1– 6 are current through January 1
Titles 17 – 27 are current through April 1
Titles 29 – 41 are current through July 1
Titles 42 – 50 are current through October 1
Each new set contains the text of all regulations in force as of the current through date. New regulations are merged with, and revoked regulations are deleted from, the previous set of regulations.
The color of each set of volumes is changed every year; a current full set may contain different colored volumes, depending on the time of the year.
Title 3, which contains Presidential Proclamations and Executive Orders, is always white.

CFR and the U.S. Code (USC)

The CFR is a much larger set and detailed than is the US Code. The Code of Federal Regulations provides all the legal and/or technical details that are required to enforce a statute.

There is sometimes a numerical relationship between the subject matter in the Titles of both the United States Code and CFR. For instance,  Title 8 and Title 26.

CFR Citation

A regulation is cited by title, part, and section.

The format that is generally used to designate a section within the CFR is similar like: 10 CFR 100.10000.

That citation is broken down as follows: 10 CFR means the 10th Title of the CFR. “100” is a reference to Part 100 within Title 10. “1000” is the section of the U.S. Code that this section of the Code of Federal Regulations is expanding upon.

Each “Part” within a Title of the CFR addresses a specific aspect of the subject matter of the Title.

Legal Research

Research Tools in Each Volume of the CFR:
Table of Contents listing all material within the book: titles, subtitles, chapters, subchapter(s), parts, and sections
Subtitles are referenced to page numbers
Material Approved for Incorporation by Reference ,which is regulatory material not published in the Federal Register or CFR
Has force of law as if it were published in the Federal Register and CFR
Mostly technical standards, state law, and regulations
Table of CFR Titles and Chapters
Redesignation Tables to help trace new location of parts and sections of a regulation
List of CFR Sections Affected in the volume

Table of Contents:
At the beginning of each print issue
Documents are listed by agencies in alphabetical order
Cross-referenced from Cabinet departments to subordinate agencies
Each agency document is arranged by category
Proposed Rules
Presidential documents are arranged as follows:
Executive Orders
CFR titles are broken down by Chapter, Subchapter, and Part.
Immediately preceding each part is a Table of Contents for the individual regulations contained within that part.

Material Approved for Incorporation by Reference is regulatory material not published in the Federal Register or CFR
Has force of law as if were published in the Federal Register and CFR
Mostly technical standards, state law, and regulations

CFR Index and Finding Aids

It is single volume
Revised annually
Index with subject entries and agency names in one listing
Since 1980, a thesaurus has assured that all agencies use the same terminology for subject headings
Parallel Table of Authorities and Rules
List of Agency-Prepared Indexes Appearing in Individual CFR Volumes
Subject entries and agency names are in one listing
Access by subject or agency
References CFR title and part numbers, not individual regulations
The List of Agency-Prepared Indexes provides information on how to locate agency indexes in various CFR volumes.
The Parallel Table of Authorities shows where regulations promulgated under statute or Executive Order have been placed in the CFR.
The list of CFR Titles, Chapters, Subchapters, and Parts provides an outline of the CFR organization.

U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)

See Also

Federal Register
Federal Acquisition Regulations (FARs)
Federal Regulations
State Regulations
Administrative Codes
United States Government Agencies

Code of federal regulations

Find more information on Code of federal regulations in relation to the Customs Trade Law in the legal Encyclopedias.

Code of federal regulations and the International Trade Law

Code of Federal Regulations Background


See Also

Further Reading

  • Code of federal regulations entry in the Dictionary of International Trade Law (Raj Bhala)
  • Code of federal regulations entry in the Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History (Thomas Carson; Mary Bonk)
  • Code of federal regulations entry in the Dictionary of International Trade
  • Code of federal regulations entry in the Dictionary of International Trade: Handbook of the Global Trade Community (Edward G. Hinkelman)

Code of Federal Regulations (Cfr) in Labor Law

According to, Code of Federal Regulations (Cfr) is defined as: The code contains Presidential executive orders and regulations based on those orders, federal laws, and other federal regulations. Related matters are grouped together. Title 41 CFR Chapter 60, for example, deals with the various Department of Labor EEO regulations and guidelines concerning federal government contractors.

Code of Federal Regulations (Cfr) in Labor Law

According to, Code of Federal Regulations (Cfr) is defined as: The code contains Presidential executive orders and regulations based on those orders, federal laws, and other federal regulations. Related matters are grouped together. Title 41 CFR Chapter 60, for example, deals with the various Department of Labor EEO regulations and guidelines concerning federal government contractors.


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