Monday, January 31, 2011

New Title in the U.S. Code: Hello, 51 U.S.C. !!!

For over eighty years, the statutory law of the United States has been arranged into fifty titles of the U.S. Code. Fifty is a nice, even number, but there’s nothing legally significant about it. One of the titles, Title 34, has been empty since 1956 and no one seemed to care. Or notice.

And Title 42 is so full that they ran out of sections and just did things like add multiple sections of 2000, delineated with over two runs of the alphabet, like 42 U.S.C. § 2000ff. That’s NOT subsection (f)(f) of section 2000, but rather is one of the fifty or so sections following section 2000: section 2000a, section 2000b, section 2000aa, section 2000ff, etc. Parts of the U.S. Code, in other words, are a mess.

So I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that Congress enacted a new title, Title 51, of the U.S. Code, last month. Public Law 111-314, signed into law on December 18, re-codified numerous existing sections of the U.S. Code “related to national and commercial space programs” and enact them as a “positive law title of the United States Code”. Pub. L. 111-314 (2)(a). For more information about “positive law”, see the brief discussion about positive law titles of the U.S. Code at the House of Representative’s Office of the Law Revision Counsel.

Public Law 111-314

A few blogs and other sites have mentioned the new U.S. Code Title 51, and we’re all similarly underwhelmed. But no one has answered the next burning question that is keeping us all up at night: does this mean that there will now have to be a new Title 51 of the Code of Federal Regulations?

Well, probably not. While there are some deliberate correspondences between titles of the U.S. Code and titles of the CFR - such as titles 26, the tax code in the U.S. Code and IRS regulations in the CFR - these are the exception rather than the rule. Also, the titles of the U.S. Code are organized by subject matter and the titles of the CFR are organized by agency or other federal governmental entity. The CFR already has a title, Title 14, for Aeronautics and Space, with an entire volume, volume 5, for current and future regulations that fall under NASA’s jurisdiction. So I don’t think we’ll see a new title of the CFR any time soon.

Oh, but one final point about the new Title 51 of the U.S. Code. As of this writing, Lexis has Title 51 up and running as part of its U.S.C.S. database:

Lexis has new U.S. Code Title 51 on-line

But Westlaw seems to be lagging behind - neither Westlaw “classic” or WestlawNEXT has this new title that is a good six weeks old. Come on, Westlaw - get it together, guys!

Westlaw needs to get on the ball

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