Private Laws in the United States
Note: Private Laws is a concept different from Private Law. Further information about private law in this Encyclopedia are available here.
“Private Laws” are laws that affect only specified individuals or entities, as opposed to Public Laws, which affect everyone in the jurisdiction.
To get Federal Private Laws: Private Laws are published in print as Slip Laws, and they have published chronologically in Statutes at Large since 1789. Slip Laws andStatutes at Large are available in most academic and Federal Depository Libraries.
You can search for Private Laws on Lexis in the Statutes at Large file (LEGIS;STATLG); add “and HEADING(Private Laws)” to the end of your search string to retrieve only Private Laws. If you have a citation, you can pull a law or other document using the format: “99 Stat 1761”.
You can get very recent Private Laws by calling the Legislative Resource Center (formerly the House Document Room) at 202-226-5200. If you aren’t in D.C., they will mail them, or you can hire a document retrieval service to pick them up.
Private Laws are not codified in the U.S. Code, and they are not published in USCCAN.
Annotations: You can find judicial opinions, law review articles and other sources citing a Federal private law by Shepardizing the Statutes at Large cite on Lexis.
Citation: Federal Private Laws are cited as “Priv. L. No.” (e.g., Priv. L. No. 105-1).
Indexing: As far as I can tell, Private Laws are not indexed by anyone, anywhere, ever.
Legislative History: Private laws can have legislative history just like Public Laws. You can link to some legislative history materials through Thomas. For a comprehensive list of additional reports and documents, see the CIS U.S. Serial Set Index.
Federal Legislative History