Editorial Reclassification in Title 50 of the United States Code Annotated

October 2, 2013

westlawnextChapter 15 of Title 50 of the United States Code Annotated (50 U.S.C.A. § 401 et seq.) is being reorganized into four new chapters:

  • Chapter 44 of Title 50, 50 U.S.C.A. § 3001 et seq.
  • Chapter 45 of Title 50, 50 U.S.C.A. § 3301 et seq.
  • Chapter 46 of Title 50, 50 U.S.C.A. § 3501 et seq.
  • Chapter 47 of Title 50, 50 U.S.C.A. § 3601 et seq.

What is interesting about this reorganization is the process. The changes to Title 50 are not from an enactment of a new public law passed by both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, enrolled for presentation to the President, and approved by the President with his signature. The Office of the Law Revision Counsel (“OLRC”), which is an independent, nonpartisan office in the U.S. House of Representatives, is responsible for maintaining and publishing the United States Code, which is a codification of the general and permanent laws of the United States, organized into titles based on subject matter. The authorized functions of the OLRC are set out in 2 U.S.C.A. § 285b and include:

  • Preparing and submitting to the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives, one title at a time, a complete compilation, restatement, and revision of the general and permanent laws of the United States which conforms to the understood policy, intent, and purpose of Congress in the original enactments, with such amendments and corrections as will remove ambiguities, contradictions, and other imperfections both of substance and of form, separately stated, with a view to the enactment of each title as positive law.
  • Examining periodically all of the public laws enacted by the Congress and submitting to the Committee on the Judiciary recommendations for the repeal of obsolete, superfluous, and superseded provisions contained in such public laws.
  • Preparing and publishing periodically a new edition of the United States Code with annual supplements reflecting newly enacted public laws.
  • Classifying newly enacted provisions of law to their proper positions in the Code.
  • Preparing and publishing periodically such revisions in the titles of the Code which have been enacted into positive law as may be necessary to keep such titles current.
  • Providing the Committee on the Judiciary with such advice and assistance as the Committee may request in carrying out its functions with respect to the revision and codification of the Federal statutes.

Pursuant to such authority the Office of the Law Revision Counsel must determine where new laws should be placed within the titles of the Code, a process called classification. New laws must be classified to fit substantively within existing Code titles in a logical structure, but also to allow room for future development. Over time, some areas of the law outgrow their original boundaries due to the enactment of new laws and amendments.  As a result, the Code becomes less organized and harder to navigate. Chapter 15 of Title 50 was originally created from the National Security Act of 1947.  Throughout the years, chapter 15 has grown to incorporate additional statutes related to national security.  The extensive growth in this area of law has created an overly cluttered chapter 15 with deficiencies in the organizational structure of national security law.  To reduce the overcrowding and to correct the organizational deficiencies, the OLRC is editorially reclassifying chapter 15 into four new chapters of Title 50.  No substantive content is altered by this reorganization but significant organization structure is altered by creating new code citation numbering scheme.

The Codes USCA team was notified by the Office of the Law Revision Counsel of the Title 50 reclassification several weeks in advance of its release on the government website.  This enabled our team to respond to this editorial reclassification and transfer code text and credit provisions with all of our editorial features including editorial notes and Notes of Decisions to the new code numbering scheme in chapters 44 to 47.  This is now released on all Westlaw platforms and will be released in our print United States Code Annotated Pamphlet, No. 2, which supplements our 2013 Pocket Parts.

The Codes USCA team presently continues to work in close conjunction with the Office of the Law Revision Counsel in the preparation and classification of the federal Code, bringing order and structure to the hundreds of laws enacted each year by the Congress.  This relationship first originated beginning in 1924 when the Committee on Revision of the Laws of the House of Representatives and the Select Committee of the Senate commissioned West Publishing Company and Edward Thompson Company to prepare for the Congress an authentic and accurate compilation of the laws of the United States, which resulted in the enactment in 1926 of an official United States Code.  As part of our current editorial responsibilities, the USCA team continues to maintain a cooperative and rewarding business relationship with the Office of the Law Revision Counsel.  The Codes USCA attorneys openly share their classification expertise with OLRC by providing proposed classifications to enrolled bills pursuant to a business contractual relationship, weekly correspondence with the OLRC attorney staff identifying discrepancies with federal data and suggesting ways to display discrepancies using various footnotes and editorial notes, and visits to the OLRC in Washington, D.C.

The advantage of fostering cooperation between the Codes USCA team and the Office of the Law Revision Counsel is the direct communication that we receive when the OLRC determines to use its editorial authority to amend statutory provisions.  Without a public law enactment triggering such code changes, the federal team would only know of such changes by accidentally tripping over them while using the OLRC federal USC print products or electronic website. The reclassification in Title 50 is only one example of such use of editorial authority which resulted in major code provision changes, so this cooperation is essential to serving our USCA customers.