Finding historical versions of statutes

September 27, 2013

westlawnextAt some point in your legal career you will need to find statutes or regulations that are either no longer in effect or have subsequently been amended. Fortunately, WestlawNext makes searching for prior versions of statutes and regulations extremely easy. Follow these instructions to find the law you are looking for:

Using the Credit Field

The best place to start when looking at the history of a statute is the credit field. Located underneath the statutory text, the credit field indicates when the statute was initially enacted and subsequently amended. By checking a statute’s credits you can find out how many versions of the statute exist. For example, let’s examine New York’s second degree murder statute. The credits reveal that it has been amended almost a dozen times since it was enacted in 1965.

For instance, you may want the version of a statute as it existed in 1984, but WestlawNext’s historical content for this statute only dates back to 1987. Don’t fret! Remember, it’s not important what year the statute comes from, only that it hasn’t been subsequently amended.  Looking at the Credit field below, we can see that there were no amendments between 1984 and 1990. Even though the content only dates back to 1987, we will still be able to look at the statute that was active in 1984, because it is the same statute that was active in 1987.

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History Links

One way we can look at prior versions of the law is by clicking on the “History” link directly above the statute.

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The History page has a link to four versions of the statute, dating all the way back to 1990.

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If you don’t see a link on this page to the version you are looking for, don’t worry! We have archives of older statutes as well.

Checking the Historical Statute Content

Westlaw maintains content of historical statutes for the Federal Government and the states. To access this content, first go to the main screen. Select Statutes & Court Rules.

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Now choose the state you want to look at, in this case, New York.

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After you click on the link for “New York,” displayed on the right-hand side of the page is a link to “New York Statutes Annotated-Historical” – from there we will see links to each year of statutes that WestlawNext has on file.

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Then select the year of the statute you would like to look at, in this case 1987.

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Now we can run a search for the statute we would like to view. In this case, simply enter “125.25” into the citation field.

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Voila! Our statute as it appeared in 1987.

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