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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Reference Tidbit - A Trip to the Library - Citing Vernon's Texas Statutes and Codes in Briefs


By Jessica R. Alexander, Reference Librarian

Like it or not, it is sometimes necessary to visit the library even though you have a sophisticated electronic database to access Texas statutes and codes. In these instances only paper and microform resources can solve the research issue.

I provided reference assistance to an attorney today who is writing an appellate brief on Texas law. The patron called the reference desk initially to determine how to obtain an "official copy" of a Texas session law.  I easily solved that problem by directing her to the Texas Legislative Reference Library Legislative Archive System. That site allows the user to enter the date of the session, i.e. 78th Regular, 78 1st called, etc. or the chapter number of the law. 78th Regular, Chapter ###.  After entering the required information, an image of the law in the General and Special Laws of Texas is available. (See the image below. The General and Special Laws of Texas of the State of Texas are available in print in our library at KFT1225.T45.)

The patron was not as fortunate in her other research need. In order to cite Texas statutes and codes according to the Bluebook, 19th Edition, Rule 12.3.1, it is necessary to list the copyright date of the bound volume and/or the paperback supplement in Vernon's Texas Statutes and Codes. ( West.) The writer must determine if parts of the statute or code appears in both the bound volume and the supplement or in just one of them. When a law is amended, all of its existing provisions may or may not change.  Unchanged provisions may be in the bound volume, while changes appear in the pocket part.  Unfortunately, it is not possible to readily access this information in Westlaw or other electronic statute databases.

Both the patron and I contacted Westlaw reference attorneys for help.  The person I talked to could only suggest that the Filing and Shelving Instructions found online at the Westlaw store might solve the problem. I carefully examined the Filing and Shelving Instructions and the Summary of Contents information and determined that while it is possible to determine the bound volume copyright date (see Summary of Contents information), it is not possible to determine the pocket part date. 

Another instance when a trip is necessary is that superseded pocket parts are not available on Westlaw or any other electronic database. If a law is changed or amended between publication of the bound volumes, the changes appear only in the pocket parts. These pocket parts are usually discarded by small libraries.  We now keep the superseded pocket parts in paper, but our fail safe materials are microform images of both the bound volumes and the pocket parts.The images date to the inception of Vernons.

As an academic library, we strive to bridge the gaps left by electronic legal resources.