State Law

State Law in the United States

The power of state law has historically included governing the following kinds of issues and claims:

  • Contracts, including sales, commercial paper, letters of credit, and secured transactions
  • Property, including real property, bailments of personal property (such as when you check your coat at a theater or leave your clothes with a dry cleaner), trademarks, copyrights, and the estates of decedents (dead people)
  • Corporations
  • Partnerships
  • Domestic matters, including marriage, divorce, custody, adoption, and visitation
  • Securities law
  • Environmental law
  • Agency law, governing the relationship between principals and their agents
  • Banking
  • Insurance

State Laws (Generally) Legal Materials

Most states have a legal encyclopedia that summarizes the state’s laws in considerable detail; an electronic edition is probably available on Lexis or Westlaw.

You may also want to check out a treatise on a particular topic (e.g., Witkin’s California Evidence). You can locate these titles by searching the online catalog of a law school in the relevant state, or look up the topic in Searching the Law: The States by Francis R. Doyle (last published in 2003)

The topical “Reporters” published by BNA and CCH reprint the relevant laws from all states in a particular field, such as BNA’s Labor Relations Reporter and CCH’s Secured Transactions Guide. The Reporters are available in print as looseleaf services and through the publisher’s subscription-based web sites. Some Reporters are available through Lexis and/or Westlaw.

Aspen’s Corporations reprints each state’s (C and LLC) corporate laws.
Finally, Lynn Hellebust’s State Legislative Sourcebook provides in-dept information on how to find out about each state’s legislature, legislative process, legislators, legislative histories, lobbying, newspapers, Registers, etc.

50-State Surveys: In addition to the resources discussed above, the following tools are useful when you need to know the law for multiple states on a particular topic.

  • The National Survey of State Laws provides a state-by-state analysis of each state’s laws in major areas (e.g., interest rates, age of consent, grounds for divorce, civil and criminal statutes of limitations, negligence, will, taxes, etc.), which is keyed to each state’s statutes. The National Survey is available in print or on Westlaw (STSURVEYS).
  • The Subject Compilations of State Laws, by Nyberg and Boast, lets you look up 50-state surveys on a wide range of topics. The Subject Compilation covers law review articles, judicial opinions, reliable web sites and the 50-state surveys available on Lexis and Westlaw. The annual volumes are available in many large law libraries, and subscribers can search the cumulative contents through HeinOnline.
  • Over the years, the American Law Reports (ALR) series has published thousands of articles discussing the laws of multiple jurisdictions. Topics are typically chosen because of difference of opinion between state courts or a split in the Federal Circuit Courts. ALRs are available in large law libraries and on Westlaw.
  • Lexis and Westlaw offer their own 50-state surveys compiling state statutory code or regulation sections on a particular topic. In most cases, the Westlaw surveys provide both citations and a brief description of each state’s law, while the Lexis surveys provides only citations.
  • Some of the BNA and CCH reporters, discussed above, include 50-state surveys. Note: The online editions of the CCH Reporters include “Smart Charts” that are essentially 50-state surveys, with direct links to the underlying laws and regulations.
  • Subject-Specific Treatises. A number of treatieses are essentially 50-state surveys. These include the State by State Guide to Human Resources Law for employment law, Business Torts: A Fifty-State Guide (Aspen) and the Compendium of State Laws on Insurance Topics (see “National Association of Insurance Commissioners”).

Historical Code Sections: Lexis and Westlaw have archived editions of most state codes back to the early 1990s. Fastcase goes back to the late 2000s. For copies of sections from older codes, call state or academic libraries in the relevant state … or the library of the New York County Lawyers’ Association (212-267-6646), which keeps historical volumes from the statutory codes of all states and D.C.

State Law in the Context of International Disputes

Relationship Between U.S. State and Federal Law in International Civil Litigation

Analysis of the Relationship Between U.S. State and Federal Law in relation to the Subject Matter Jurisdiction of U.S. Courts in International Disputes.

The Erie Doctrine

Read more information about The Erie Doctrine in this American Encyclopedia of Law.

Substantive Federal Common Law

Read more information about Substantive Federal Common Law in this American Encyclopedia of Law.

Sate Primary Law Resources

For more U.S. state primary law resources, see:

Federal or State Law Explained


See Also

  • Civil Procedure
  • Federal Courts

State Law (Branch Banking)

This section introduces, discusses and describes the basics of state law. Then, cross references and a brief overview about Branch Banking is provided. Finally, the subject of Bank Expansion in relation with state law is examined. Note that a list of cross references, bibliography and other resources appears at the end of this entry.

State Law (Consumer Protection)

This section introduces, discusses and describes the basics of state law. Then, cross references and a brief overview about Consumer Protection is provided. Finally, the subject of Banking Law in relation with state law is examined. Note that a list of cross references, bibliography and other resources appears at the end of this entry.

State Law (Exemptions)

This section introduces, discusses and describes the basics of state law. Then, cross references and a brief overview about Exemptions is provided. Finally, the subject of Bankruptcy Law in relation with state law is examined. Note that a list of cross references, bibliography and other resources appears at the end of this entry.


See Also

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

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