Executive Law

Executive Law in the United States

On the federal level, the term administrative law refers to the law created by the many and varied federal executive and administrative agencies. Executive Departments (such as Labor, Education) are represented in the cabinet. Agencies (such as the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency) may be created by or have authority delegated to them from Congress. (See Richard J. Pierce, Administrative Law Treatise, N.Y.: Aspen Law & Business, Chapt. 1.

Agencies have quasi-legislative power as well as quasi-judicial power. See Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 551 (1988). They may also issue advisory opinions. Their legislative enactments are generally referred to as regulations or rules. The terminology for the adjudicatory functions (decisions in disputes) and advisory functions varies from agency to agency; they are typically referred to as decisions or opinions but they may also be called orders or releases.

Set out below are some of the principal bibliographic products of the federal administrative process. Before describing these individual items, however, we want to call your attention to a kind of publication which may simplify and accelerate your research:


Looseleaf services are available for specific subject areas of law, particularly those that are heavily legislated or regulated such as tax, securities, and labor. Not only are looseleafs
usually very current (some are updated weekly), but they often also contain relevant primary sources of law and some secondary materials in one publication. In addition to statutes, regulations, court cases and administrative agency decisions, they generally provide current awareness information such as news of proposed legislation and pending regulations. These services are often better indexed than the government publications and contain other features to help you locate information. Consequently, when researching a problem of administrative law, you may want to first determine if a looseleaf service is published for your topic (check Legal Looseleafs in Print, New York: InfoSources Publishing, 1981-  and use this as a starting point rather than the official publications.

Online Resources

A particularly useful site for locating websites for federal agencies is Villanova University’s Federal Web Navigator at http://lawdbase.law.villanova.edu/fedweb/.


Regulations are officially published both chronologically (like session laws) and topically (like codified statutes).

 Chronological publication appears in the Federal Register

Agencies must give notice of proposed rule-making by publishing in the Federal Register (F.R.). See Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552 (1988). After a sufficient time for comment has elapsed, the final rule (if any) must be published once again in the F.R. The F.R. is NOT in subject
order; it is a daily chronological printing of the business of the federal agencies.

NOTE: “LEGISLATIVE INTENT” FOR REGULATIONS: While there is no true legislative intent for regulations, the Federal Register usually includes the agency’s rationale for promulgating a particular regulation as well as summaries of public commentary on proposed regulations. These summaries typically accompany the printing of the final rule or regulation in the Federal Register. The summaries do not appear in the CFR (see below) and can only be found using the Federal Register cite for the final rule or regulation, given in the CFR.

Federal Register (F.R.) 1936-present. The Federal Register includes:

  • Rules and regulations of federal agencies
  • Proposed rules and regulations
  • Agency notices
  • Presidential documents of general applicability or legal effect
  • Sunshine Act meetings
  • Unified Agenda of Federal Regulations (in April & October, agenda describing regulatory action). Internet: gpoaccess.gov/fr/ (from 1994);

Finding Aids:

  • Within the Federal Register (see below)
  • CIS Federal Register Index. Bethesda, MD: Congressional Information Services, Inc., 1984-. A comprehensive weekly guide to the F.R.

Finding Aids within the Federal Register:

  • Subject indices: Monthly, each month’s index cumulates those earlier in the year.
  • Cumulative List of parts affected: each month; cumulates daily.
  • Listing of Federal Register pages and dates for the month.
  • List of agencies which publish their documents on designated days of the week.

Regulations are codified by subject in the Code of Federal Regulations

The Code of Federal Regulations is analogous to the U.S. Code; it reproduces, by topic, all the regulations of the federal agencies currently in effect.

See in this Section below:

  • Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)
  • Finding Aids
  • Updating the current CFR

Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR, 1938-present) contains regulations first published in the Federal Register that are of a “general and permanent” nature and will be in effect in the year of publication. It is arranged by subject into 50 titles similar but not identical to the U.S.C.; cite by title and section. Revised annually. Library retains all superseded versions (Level A). See in
Internet: gpoaccess.gov/cfr/ (from 1996);

Finding Aids for Regulations

Finding aids include:

  • Code of Federal Regulations: CFR Index and Finding Aids (see below)
  • Index to the Code of Federal Regulations. Englewood, CO: Congressional Information Service, Inc., 1985- . An extremely detailed index to the CFR.
  • RegulationsPlus™Index available on Westlaw in the CFR database.

Code of Federal Regulations (CFR Index and Finding Aids) include

  • Subject/agency index for rules currently codified in CFR.
  • Parallel table of authorities and rules cited as authority for regulations currently codified in CFR. Table divided into four parts: U.S.C. citations; United States Statutes at Large citations; Public Law citations; and Presidential Documents citations.
  • Presidential Documents to CFR: (not for current documents).
  • U.S. Statute to Presidential Document: found in yearly cumulation of Title 3 of the CFR.

Updating the current CFR:

The CFR is updated by consulting the LSA: List of CFR Sections Affected.

  • The LSA cumulates with each issue so check only most recent. This is a monthly paper supplement shelved at the end of the CFR set.
  • Annual cumulations of sections affected from 1986 to present appear at the back of each title of the CFR. Organized by CFR title and section; it gives the cite to the Federal Register page where the final regulation was published. Internet: gpoaccess.gov/lsa/about.html (from 1997)
  • For the period before 1986, see Code of Federal Regulations: List of Sections Affected 1949-63, 1964-1972, 1973-85 published in seven separate volumes.


Federal administrative materials may be Shepardized on Lexis. Law students and others with
individual Lexis passwords can access Shepard’s®. Law students and others with Westlaw passwords also have access to Westlaw’s RegulationsPlus™ database, which provides notes of decisions for regulations (RegulationsPlus links are displayed on the Links tab when you are viewing a Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) section).


Federal Agencies decisions and reports

See Federal Agencies decisions and reports here.

Presidential documents

See Presidential documents decisions and reports here.

Executive Law: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Executive Law. This part provides references, in relation to Executive Law, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Executive Law by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Executive Law and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Executive Law or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Executive Law and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Executive Law. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Executive Law should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Executive Law when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

*This resource guide is updated frequently. However, if you notice something is wrong or not working, or any resources that should be added, please notify us in any of the "Leave a Comment" area.

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