The Law area of the Reference Section, located on the fifth floor of the Broward County Main Library, maintains a reference collection of primary and secondary law materials, both current and historical, at the federal, State of Florida, and local levels. Circulating copies of self-help law books are located on the fourth floor of the Broward County Main Library.
Note: While the Reference Section of the Broward County Main Library has some primary legal materials that are not available at most branch libraries, general law books for the layperson are available at many Broward County Library branches and are generally classified in the 340-349 Dewey Decimal area.
Types of Law
The Reference Section maintains collections of primary law, which provide the official text of laws enacted by a body legally authorized to create laws. Primary law may take the form of statutory law (statutes and codes), administrative law (executive orders and proclamations as well as regulations and decisions of administrative agencies), or case law (court cases).
Statutory law consists of the laws enacted by a legislative body, including the U.S. Congress, Florida Legislature, Broward County Board of County Commissioners, and city commissions. They are first published as individual laws, in “slip law” format. They are later bound in consecutive order. Subsequently, they are published in a codified version, by subject. Examples of statutory law are the U.S. Statutes at Large and United States Code as well as the Laws of Florida and Florida Statutes.
Administrative law consists of the orders and proclamations of the chief executive of a jurisdiction, as well as the rules and decisions of administrative agencies.
The chief executive of a jurisdiction (whether a U.S. President, state governor, county administrator, or city manager) has the authority to issue orders and proclamations. The U.S. President’s orders and proclamations are published in the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 3.
Administrative agencies are created by the legislative branch and staffed by the executive branch of a jurisdication. Examples of administrative agencies at the federal, state, and local levels include the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Florida Department of Corrections, and the Broward County Aviation Department.
Administrative agencies have two functions: rule-making and adjudication. They create rules and regulations to implement statutory law, and they also hold hearings on cases and make decisions.
The Federal Register provides daily notification of the proposed and final rules of each agency. These are later codified, by subject, in the annual Code of Federal Regulations. The Florida Administrative Weekly and the Florida Administrative Code provide the equivalent information on the state level.
The Reference Section also has a collection of the decisions of a number of administrative agencies, including the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission, among others.
Case law consists of the decisions of courts. Courts issue decisions on cases presented before them. Court opinions and judgments are published in case reporters. Examples of case reporters are:
- United States Reports (U.S. Supreme Court cases)
- Federal Reporter (U.S. Courts of Appeals cases)
- Federal Supplement (U.S. District Courts cases)
- Southern Reporter (U.S. State Appellate Courts)
The Section maintains a collection of current secondary law resources that provide explanations and interpretations of the primary law. These include books of law forms as well as law dictionaries, encyclopedias, handbooks, guides, and treatises. Among the holdings of the Reference Section are Black's Law Dictionary, American Jurisprudence and Florida Jurisprudence law encyclopedias, the Self-Help Law Series (published by Nolo Press), the Self-Help Law Kits with Forms (published by Sourcebooks, a division of Sphinx), and the Ask a Lawyer Series (published by W. W. Norton Co.) These and other titles are listed in the Broward County Library’s online Library Catalog.
Jurisdictions of Law
Federal Law Materials
The Reference Section’s collection of federal law materials includes access to Congressional journals, hearings, committee prints, reports, and documents, as well as to bills, statutes, codes, and cases. The Section has an extensive file of Congressional materials, dating back to the First Continental Congress of 1774.
Also included in the federal documents collection are the decisions of such agencies as the Court of Military Appeals, Department of the Interior, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Federal Communications Commission, Federal Labor Relations Authority, Federal Trade Commission, Interstate Commerce Commission, Merit Systems Protection Board, and the Tax Court of the U.S.
State of Florida Law Materials
The Reference Section collects legislative journals, bills and laws, as well as codes and cases for the State of Florida. An historical back-file is maintained. Session law includes the acts of the Legislative Council of the Territory of Florida (1822-1845) as well as the acts of the State of Florida. The Section also maintains a collection of the opinions of the Attorney General dating back to 1941.
Local Law Materials
The Section maintains print copies of the codes of ordinances of Broward County and the City of Fort Lauderdale. The codes of other counties and municipalities may be found on the websites of the Municipal Code Corporation and American Legal Publishing.
Historical Legal Sets
In addition to many hardcopy law sets, the Reference Section maintains additional law resources in microfiche format through LLMC (Law Library Microform Consortium). Many historical legal sets may be found through this microfiche collection.
Official and Unofficial Law Materials
Along with the official laws published by governmental sources, the Section has unofficial annotated editions of laws published by commercial sources. These sources provide the official text of the laws, but add annotations, including notes about the history of the laws, cross-references to other laws, and summaries of related cases. Examples of unofficial, or annotated, editions of the law include United State Code Annotated and Florida Statutes Annotated.
Access to the Law Collections
The Reference Section provides a variety of specialized finding tools to assist users in locating the law. Official government indexes as well as commercially-produced indexes are available to aid in finding statutory laws and administrative regulations. These include popular name tables for specific laws and indexes for tracing current and past legislation, including Congressional hearings. Digests and citators are available to aid in finding case law related to the topic being researched.
Digests are very detailed subject indexes to case law, arranged by specific key points of law.
Citators are used to update case law. They research each decided court case and list all subsequent cases that cited the original case. They can be used to find out if a cited case has been appealed and, if so, whether the decision was upheld or overturned.
Findlaw (website) provides a wide variety of legal information at the federal and state levels.
FloridaLegalForms (website) provides legal forms that may be used in Florida.
The Reference Section has a database of statutory, administrative, and case law, at the federal level and for all fifty states. The LoisLaw database is accessible by visiting the Reference Section at the Broward County Main Library. Ask a librarian to help you log on to this database.
Links to Websites on Law
Additional information on general law may be found on the following websites:
ipl2: Information You Can Trust - website
This is a searchable and annotated subject directory of internet resources that provide accurate, factual information on many topics. Select “Law” from the broad list of headings and then select “Law by Subject” or any other sub-topic. You may also type a keyword in the search box.
General Law Sites
America Law Sources Online - website
This site provides a comprehensive, uniform, and useful compilation of links to all online sources of American law.
Avalon Project at Yale Law School - website
The Avalon Project provides access to documents in law, history, and diplomacy from pre-18th century to the present.
Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute - website
Cornell’s site is an excellent source of state, federal, and international legal information. Searches may be conducted by broad topic categories or by specific keywords. Full-text legal documents are included. The site contains recent and historic Supreme Court decisions as well as access to the U.S. Constitution, United States Code, Code of Federal Regulations, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and more.
Findlaw - website
Findlaw provides links to law schools, law firms and lawyers, consultants and experts, laws, codes, cases, and more. Federal, state, foreign, and international law resources are included.
Findlaw for Legal Professionals - website
Affiliated with FindLaw, this search engine provides focused searches to other law-related web sites. Strong on U.S. law, it includes law schools, continuing education and employment opportunities, legal organizations, law firms, lawyers, U.S. laws and cases, links to federal government agency websites, and state law resources. It also includes foreign and international resources. Links are provided by jurisdiction, and searches may be limited to jurisdictions other than the U.S.
Internet Law Library - website
This site, formerly called the U.S. House of Representatives Internet Law Library, provides access to U.S. Federal laws, U.S. state laws, laws of other nations, treaties, and international law. It also includes law schools and libraries as well as law publishers and book reviews.
Law Guru - website
Law Guru provides a variety of links to legal information. Registration is required, but is free.
Law Runner: A Legal Research Tool - website
Law Runner, a product of the Internet Legal Research Group (ILRG) provides a directory of the LawRunner home pages for every nation in the world, including all islands and territories.
Meta Index for U.S. Legal Research - website
This site allows searches for a variety of US legal indexes on the web, including Findlaw and Law Crawler. It provides links to the United States Code, the Code of Federal Regulations, information on federal legislation (from the Thomas website), and case law from the U.S. Supreme Court and all Federal Circuit Courts.
Nolo Self-Help Law Center - website
This site provides information on a wide variety of law topics, including business law, family law, immigration law, intellectual property, and wills and estate planning.
Public Legal - website
PublicLegal, a product of the Internet Legal Research Group (ILRG), provides access to an archive of 2,000 legal forms.
American Bar Association - website
This site provides information on the association's membership and events. The "LawLink" section provides links to federal executive, legislative and judicial agencies. The "Public Information" section provides a lawyer referral service. Access to full-text legal articles requires membership.
Broward County Bar Association - website
This site provides information on the association’s membership as well as links to the 17th Judicial Circuit Court’s administrative orders and local rules of court, the Broward County Clerk of the Courts’ forms, and the home pages of Broward County judges. It also includes links to the Florida Bar’s directory of lawyers and the homepages of Florida government agencies (via the Florida Government Information Locator Service).
The Florida Bar Online - website
The web site of the Florida Bar provides membership and committee information as well as links to such agencies as the Florida Bar Examiners and the Florida Bar Foundation. It includes the rules that regulate the Florida Bar. The Florida Bar News is also available.
United States Courts: The Federal Judiciary - website
This site serves as a clearinghouse for information about U.S. courts at all levels. Links are provided to specific courts throughout the country.
Law.com Dictionary - website
Law.com is an online dictionary of legal terms.
Hieros Gamos: Worldwide Legal Directories - website
This site includes links to law information, including legal associations and bar associations, for 230 countries.
Findlaw’s Lawyer Directory - website
Findlaw includes a directory of lawyers throughout the country.
Martindale-Hubbell Lawyer Locator - website
Martindale-Hubbell also provides listings of lawyers and law firms throughout the country.
Federal Digital System (FDsys) - website
FDsys provides access to legislative resources (bills, the Congressional Record, public and private laws, and the United States Code), administrative resources (Presidential materials as well as the Code of Federal Regulations and the Federal Register), and judicial resources (U.S. Supreme Court opinions). Many additional resources are included, as well.
State and Local Governments - website
This site provides a directory of official state, county and city government websites.
Intellectual Property (Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights)
Copyright Law of the U.S. - website
The website of the U.S. Copyright Office provides the full text of the copyright laws that appear in Title 17 of the United States Code.
The Cyberlaw Encyclopedia - website
This site, produced by Attorney Alan Gahtan, is devoted to information-technology and intellectual-property law.
World Law Guide - website
World Law Guide provides thousands of links to legal sites all over the world.
Thomas - website
Thomas is the Library of Congress’ legislative website. It provides access to the Congressional Record as well as federal bills and resolutions. Links to the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate websites are included. There is also a link to the U.S. Code website.
U.S. Code – U.S. House of Representatives - website
This is the U.S. House of Representatives site for searching the United States Code.
C-Span - website
C-Span’s website is a good source of public affairs information on the web. The “Current Events” section includes roll call votes on Congressional bills. The “Browse Issues” section includes a category for Laws/Courts with links to the Legal Information Institute’s Supreme Court Collection, the Federal Judiciary Center, the current hearings of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, and more.
Just for the fun of it!
Dumb Laws - website
This humorous site lists unusual laws that are still on the books in various jurisdictions.