WESTLAW NEXT Tip of the Week: Accessing Historical Versions of Statutes

October 8, 2012

Tip of the WeekLegal research often requires us to find prior laws. For example, you may need to view the statute that was in effect on the date a legal matter actually occurred. Likewise, the proper application and understanding of legislative intent behind a current law often requires examining older versions of that law. There are several ways to find prior laws on WestlawNext®:

Browsing to Historical Statutes

One way to access historical statutes is to browse to the content. When you browse, note that there are several different ways to get to the same content. For example, if you want to access prior statutes for a particular state (e.g., Alabama), you could follow any of the following routes:

  1. Click Statutes & Court Rules on the All Content tab, click Historical Statutes in the right column under Tools & Resources, and then click the name of the desired jurisdiction or topic.

One way to access historical statutes is to browse to the content

  1. Click Statutes & Court Rules on the All Content tab, click the name of the desired jurisdiction or topic, and then click the Statutes Annotated – Historical link in the right column under Tools & Resources.

One way to access historical statutes is to browse to the content

  1. Click a state name on the State Materials tab, click Statutes & Court Rules on the state’s page, and then click the Statutes Annotated – Historical link in the right column under Tools & Resources.

One way to access historical statutes is to browse to the content

Each of the above three methods for browsing to historical statutes will bring you to a Statutes Annotated – Historical page. Here you will see links to the individual years that are available. Simply click on the statutory year you would like to search and an Advanced Search template will display. Use the template to search with specific information (e.g., citation) or use the search box at the top of the page to search the full text.

Here you will see links to the individual years that are available

Auto-Suggest and Historical Statutes

Another way to access historical statutes is to begin by typing the name of the content or database in the search box. An auto-suggest box will drop down and display the available publications that match your input. Here are a few examples of how to retrieve historical statutes using auto-suggest:

  1. Begin by typing the word “historical” followed by the jurisdiction of the statutes you desire.

>Auto-Suggest and Historical Statutes

  1. Type the name of the jurisdiction followed by the word “statute.” The drop-down will display statutes pages for that jurisdiction, including pages for years in which a historic compilation is available.

Type the name of the jurisdiction followed by the word statute.

  1. Type the database identifier for the desired database. For state statutes, the database identifier will always begin with the state’s two-letter abbreviation followed by “-ST” (e.g., MI-ST). The drop-down will display statutes pages for that jurisdiction, including pages for years in which a historic compilation is available.

Type the database identifier for the desired database

Once you click on one of the Statutes Annotated links in the drop-down, an Advanced Search template will display. Use the template to search with specific information (e.g., citation) or use the search box at the top of the page to search the full text.

Use the template to search with specific information

Prior Versions on the History Tab

For select jurisdictions, you can quickly access historical versions of a statutory section from its current version. While you are viewing the statute, select Versions from the History tab.

Prior Versions on the History Tab

When prior versions are available, they are arranged by effective date in reverse chronological order.

When prior versions are available, they are arranged by effective date

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