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Legal Resources

The law resources in Olson Library can help you to:

  • Find the text of federal and state laws and regulations.
  • Find interpretations of federal and state laws given in the courts.
  • Trace the legislative history of bills.
  • Keep up-to-date on legislation, court decisions, and administrative rulings in general and specific fields.

The law collection covers most federal law, but it is by no means complete. The library has state court decisions only for Michigan, but you may find more recent decisions for other states by consulting the general web resources. Many law books are updated annually with pocket-parts inserted in the back. Make sure to check the pocket-part updates, otherwise you may miss a crucial change in the law.

Use OneSearch to locate books on various legal topics.  Also used to determine if the library owns a particular law journal.


Official Guide to U.S. Law Schools Online & KF 273 A86
Black's Law Dictionary KF 156 B53
Burton, William C. Legal Thesaurus KF 156 B856
Cohen, Morris. Legal Research in a Nutshell KF 240 C54
Nolo's Free Dictionary of Law Terms and Legal Definitions  
The Peoples Law Dictionary from  
Garner's Dictionary of Legal Usage KF 156 .G367 2011
Introduction to Legal Research on WestLaw Next Link to .pdf guide

A legal encyclopedia provides summaries of legal principles and is one of the best initial places to search if you are unfamiliar with a legal topic.

Encyclopedia of the American Constitution KF 4548 E53 1986
Oxford Companion to American Law KF 154 .O96 2002
Michigan Law and Practice Encyclopedia
     The legal encyclopedia for Michigan law.
KFM 4265 M5
West's Encyclopedia of American Law  KF 154.W47 1998
Legal Periodicals. Westlaw provides access to over 800 full-text legal journals and law reviews. In Westlaw, click on "Secondary Sources".
American Law Reports. Attorney-written articles that cite, summarize, and analyze case law on a particular legal issue. In Westlaw, click on "Secondary Sources".

A. Statutes, Laws and Codes

United States Statutes at Large KF 50 A2
     v. 1,8,10-11,13-14,16-63,70-present ; 1789-present
    The official publication of all laws passed during a session of Congress.  Statutes are published complete and in the order they were passed. Available in the Olson Library book collection, 3rd floor: KF 50 .A2 (v.1, 8, 10-11, 13-14, 16-63, 70-present; 1789-present). Published by the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO). Available online from and from The Library of Congress.
United States Code Annotated (USCA)
In Westlaw, click on "Federal Materials"
The entire body of federal law currently in force, organized into 50 subject divisions (titles).  Includes references to court decisions and articles related to particular laws.  The United States Code (U.S.C.) is freely available from the House of Representatives and from the Government Publishing Office, but neither contains the annotated information (court decisions, articles, etc.) found in the U.S.C.A. Cornell has an online U.S.C. that is generated from the House version.

B. Federal Court Decisions


Supreme Court Reporter
     In addition to providing the complete decisions of the Supreme Court, including dissenting opinions, this resource contains the headnotes of the major points of law for each case.
United States Reports, v. 389- ; 1967- present KF 101 A3
     Complete decisions of the Supreme Court, including dissenting opinions.  Does not contain headnotes.
     Available from the Library of Congress; and from findlaw.
Findlaw's U.S. Supreme Court News  
     Daily updates on the actions of the court. An additional resource that lists cases per month is available from the Cornell's Legal Information Institute's Supreme Court Collection.
Federal Reporter
     Contains the complete decisions of cases decided from the U.S. Courts of Appeal and Temporary Emergency Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals decisions for each circuit are also available online (date of coverage varies by circuit, but generally is around 1995 to the present).
Federal Supplement
     Contains the complete decisions of selected cases decided in the U.S. District Courts and U.S. Customs Court. District Court information is available on the Web, but is highly variable from one court to another. Most courts will provide links to opinions, but some do not.

C. Administrative Rulings

Federal Register  
     The daily compilation of executive and administrative rules and regulations which have the force of law. Indexed daily. The Federal Register is available on the Web from 1994 to the present.
Code of Federal Regulations  
     A cumulation of the Federal Register arranged in 50 subject divisions or titles updated in sections throughout the year. Volume 1 is a general index. The Code of Federal Regulations is available on the Web from 1996 to the present.

D.  Congress

Congressional Record  

    1873-1919 in microfilm [KF 35]; 1919-1980 cumulative editions in stacks [KF 35].

    The transcripts of all debates held on the floor of Congress. Daily editions are indexed every two weeks. Cumulated for each session of Congress. Indexes by bill or resolution number, name and subject. Indexes also include a section entitled "History of Bills and Resolutions" which gives a legislative history of each bill introduced. The Congressional Record is available from from the 65th Congress (1917) to the present and 1994 onwards from the Government Publishing Office

A. Statutes, Laws, and Codes

Public and Local Acts of the Legislature KFM 4225 A2
     The official publication of all laws passed by the Michigan Legislature. An annual publication with laws published complete and in the order in which they were passed. The Public and Local Acts of the Legislature is available online from 1997.
Michigan Compiled Laws Annotated
    The entire current law of Michigan arranged into subject divisions. Contains references to relevant court decisions.
Michigan Compiled Laws KFM 4230 1979 A23
     Same as Michigan Compiled Laws Annotated but does not contain references to court decisions. The current Michigan Compiled Laws is available on the Web; older copies are in print on the 3rd floor.
Michigan Law & Practice Encyclopedia, 2nd ed. KFM 4265 M52
     A multi-volume quick reference for legal personnel.

B.  Court Decisions


Digests are subject indexes to court decisions. A short summary or headnote is provided for the point of law discussed in each case listing.

Provides access to a variety of legal information, including federal and state case law, the United States Code Annotated, the Code of Federal Regulations, the Federal Register, state statutes and administrative codes, and more. Also included are 900 law journals and reviews.

Indexes Michigan court cases and Federal cases arising in or appealed from Michigan. Click on the "Go" button under their KeySearch, select your topic, then Michigan.
Michigan Appellate Digest  
Summarizes and indexes all published Michigan Supreme Court and Court of Appeals decisions since 1992. Select the By Keyword tab for the most comprehensive search.


Michigan Reports
     Official publication of all decisions of Michigan Supreme Court.  Cases after 1980 are continued in North Western Reporter 2d. You can also search for Michigan Supreme Court cases on the Web from October 2001 to the present.
Michigan Appeals Reports
     Official publication of all decisions of the Michigan Court of Appeals. You can also search for Michigan Court of Appeals cases on the Web from August 1992 to the present.
North Western Reporter 2nd 
     Contains the complete decisions of the Michigan Supreme Court and Michigan Court of Appeals.  The decisions are the same as those that appear in the official editions.  All three sets are indexed in the Michigan Digest.


Citators provide access to the judicial history and interpretations of reported court cases, verify the current status of each case, and locate earlier cases that have been cited in later court cases.

Please refer to the citators explained under the Federal Court Decisions for a brief introduction to the KeyCite System.

C. Administrative Rulings

Michigan Register  
     The state version of the Federal Register issued monthly.  Contains new and proposed rules issued by state agencies.  Approved rules and regulations are compiled in the online version of the Michigan Administrative Code. The Michigan Register is available on the Web from 2000 to the present.
Michigan Administrative Code KFM 4235 1979 A2 
     A compilation of administrative rules and regulations issued by various state agencies and departments. The Michigan Administrative Code, updated daily, is available on the Web.
American Federal Tax Reports — series 1, v. 1-52 ; series 2, v. 1-83 KF 6280 A27
Reports of the Tax Court of the United States (from the Court itself)
Reports of the United States Board of Tax Appeals
Tax Court Memorandum Decisions — v.1-31, 1942-1972 KF 6280 A226, 
U.S. Tax Cases — v. 1-73, 1913-1973 KF 6280 A232
United States Tax Reporter  
    Internal revenue code  v. 1-2 (loose-leaf) KF 6277 U5
    Income taxes v. 1-18 (loose-leaf) KF 6365 U5

Provides access to a variety of legal information, including federal and state case law, the United States Code Annotated, the Code of Federal Regulations, the Federal Register, state statutes and administrative codes, and more. Also included are 900 law journals and reviews.

Includes over 1,200 full-text journals and over 2.5 million records, including book reviews and case citations. Offers information centered on the discipline of law and legal topics such as criminal justice, international law, organized crime, ethics, the environment. Brought to you by the Library of Michigan via the Michigan eLibrary (

Contains thousands of legal forms and more than 310 full-text legal reference books. Brought to you by the Library of Michigan via the Michigan eLibrary (

The following mega-sites will be of most useful in locating legislative and case law for states other than Michigan. Note, however, the dates of coverage for these resources are limited. These sites also provide links to law schools, legal organizations or associations, international law, news, law journals, etc.

Legal Information Institute
Internet Legal Resource Guide
Guide to Law Online from the Library of Congress
General Legal Research Sites - Free and Commercial from the Law Librarian's Society of Washington, D.C.
Google Scholar (select "Case Law")
Locating the Law, 5th edition, revised (2011)
Michigan Legal Help also the Law Library of Michigan.
Gale Legalforms Resource provided by MeL

The basic citation form for any legal reference you may find is:

48 U.S. 661
volume number source page number

Holdings vary for each source listed below.  Consult the links for detailed holdings information.

Law abbreviations are not consistent, but in general the law materials in Olson Library are abbreviated as follows:

A.F.T.R. (RIA) American Federal Tax Reports (Research Institute of America) KF 6280 A27
A.F.T.R.2d (RIA) American Federal Tax Reports, second series (Research Institute of America) KF 6280 A27
B.T.A Reports of the United States Board of Tax Appeals
C.F.R. Code of Federal Regulations Online at the Government Publishing Office
Am. Jur. 2d American Jurisprudence
E.R.C. Environment Reporter - Cases (Bureau of National Affairs) See 
F.R. Federal Register Online
F.2d Federal Reporter, Second Series
F.3d Federal Reporter, Third Series
F.Supp. Federal Supplement
F.Supp 2d Federal Supplement, Second Series
M.C.L. Michigan Compiled Laws KFM 4230 1979 A23
M.C.L.A. Michigan Compiled Laws Annotated
Mich. Michigan Reports State of Michigan
Mich. App. Michigan Appeals Reports State of Michigan
N.W.2d North Western Reporter, Second Series
S. Ct. Supreme Court Reporter
Stat. U.S. Statutes at Large KF 50 A2 & 
T.C. Reports of the Tax Court of the United States United States Tax Court
T.C.M. (CCH) Tax Court Memorandum Decisions (Commerce Clearing House) KF 6280 A226
U.S. U.S. Reports KF 101 A3 & 
U.S.C. U.S. Code Online only
U.S.C.A. U.S. Code Annotated
U.S. Tax Cas.
U.S. Tax Cases (Commerce Clearing House) KF 6280 A23


For abbreviations not listed above consult some of the following sources:

The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation KF 245 B58
Understanding and mastering The bluebook: a guide for students and practitioners KF 245 .B37 2007
Michigan Appellate Opinion Manual (for Michigan, sets forth the Court's current standards for citation of authority, quotation, and style in opinions of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals) Online
Common Legal Citations and Where to Find Them Online
Common Abbreviations and Legal Citation Examples for Selected Federal Government Documents: Legislative, Regulatory and Statutory Online
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