Private Laws

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.

Legal Materials

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.

Private Laws are posted on Thomas back to the 101st Congress (1989-90) and FDsysback to the 104th Congress (1995-96). They are also available in Statutes at Large(see “Statutes At Large”).

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.

For more about Private Laws, see “Private Bills and Private Laws,” 99(1) Law Library Journal 87 (Winter 2007), by Matthew Mantel and The Decline of Private Laws by Melanie Buck.

See Also

Bill Status
Federal Bills
Federal Legislative History
Presidential Materials

Private Laws: 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 Private Laws. This part provides references, in relation to Private Laws, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Private Laws 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 Private Laws 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 Private Laws 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 Private Laws 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 Private Laws. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Private Laws 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 Private Laws 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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