Legal research materials are generally classified as being either one of two types of sources: primary or secondary. Primary sources are "the law" itself, which we are bound to follow. Secondary sources are materials about the law; they explain and help us to find "the law" in a given situation. Although secondary sources, sometimes called "persuasive authority," are very useful in legal research, and courts often consider them, no one is legally bound by them. An example of primary law is Deering's California Codes Annotated. This multi-volume set contains California's statutes, codified (organized by subject) into 29 titles. An example of a secondary source is A Summary of California Law by B.E. Witkin, a critical examination of California law. While Witkin's analysis is highly regarded and often cited by California courts, it is not "the law."
The purpose of this guide is to identify all of the California primary law resources in the Law Library's collection. Federal primary law resources in the Law Library are identified in a Legal Research Guide on the topic on our website at www.saclaw.org/pages/fed-prim-law.aspx.
Primary Law includes materials such as constitutions and charters, statutes and ordinances, legislative documents, court opinions (cases) and rules of court, and administrative decisions and regulations. The Law Library has the majority of these materials in print or online in WestlawNext, and provides access to many of them via the Internet. While WestlawNext may only be used in the Law Library, California law available on the Internet is freely accessible from almost anywhere.
III. COURT RULES
IV. COURT OPINIONS (CASES)
V. ADMINISTRATIVE DECISIONS
California statutes begin as chaptered bills. A bill is "chaptered" by the Secretary of State after it has passed through both houses of the Legislature and has been signed by the Governor or becomes law without the Governor's signature. These chaptered bills are bound in the California government's official publication, Statutes and Amendments to the Codes of California.
The Law Library's collection covers 1850-2008, at KFC 30 .A2 (Compact).
WestlawNext: Click on the tab [State Materials], then click on [California]. Scroll down to the heading: Proposed & Enacted Legislation. Click on [California Proposed and Enacted Legislation] then [Enacted Legislation (Session Laws)]. You may browse the most recent session laws or search all session laws passed during the current legislative session in the search box provided above.
Internet: The California Legislature's website has the Statutes and Amendments to the Code from 1993, known as session laws: www.legislature.ca.gov/port-statute.html.
The State Assembly Chief Clerk's Website has the Statutes and Amendments to the Code for most years from 1850 to 2008; and, since 1968, the Summary Digest, on the Internet at 188.8.131.52/clerkarchive/. Click on [Statutes] in the navigation bar on the left, then select the appropriate year from the drop-down menu. The result will be a table of contents in an active PDF document. Click on the desired section title or chapter number to view a scanned copy of the original print document.
California statutory law consists of 29 titles, called "codes," covering the following subject areas: Business and Professions Code, Civil Code, Code of Civil Procedure, Commercial Code, Corporations Code, Education Code, Elections Code, Evidence Code, Family Code, Financial Code, Fish and Game Code, Food and Agricultural Code, Government Code, Harbors and Navigation Code, Health and Safety Code, Insurance Code, Labor Code, Military and Veterans Code, Penal Code, Probate Code, Public Contract Code, Public Resources Code, Public Utilities Code, Revenue and Taxation Code, Streets and Highways Code, Unemployment Insurance Code, Vehicle Code, Water Code, and Welfare and Institutions Code.
A. Current California Codes
Deering's California Codes Annotated, published byLexisNexis (formerly Bancroft-Whitney), has approximately 220 volumes, and is shelved at KFC 30 .5 D4 (Compact).
West's Annotated California Codes, published by Thomson/West, has approximately 250 volumes, and is shelved at KFC 30 .W48.
WestlawNext: Click on the tab [State Materials], then click on [California]. Click on [California Statutes and Court Rules], which links to the current edition of West's Annotated California Codes (and Statutes, Constitution and Court Rules). Search within a title of the code, or within the entire code.
Internet: The current un-annotated (just the statutes without editorial analysis by the publishers) code is available from the new California Legislature's website at leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes.xhtml. Click on the title you are interested in, or check the box next to [All], and enter your key terms in the box provided. Or, check the box next to the title you are interested in, don't enter any search terms, and click on [Search] for the title's table of contents.
B. Historical California Codes
Older editions of the code are shelved in alphabetical order according to title and year: Agriculture Code [KFC 30 .5 .D4 F6] to Water Code [KFC 30 .5 .D4 W35], in the Historical Collection in compact shelving. You may search our online catalog by any of the 29 code titles to identify the publication dates of those codes in our collection. Ask at the Reference Desk for a chart of available historical California codes.
WestlawNext: Click on Tab [State Materials] and click on [California]. Click on [California Statutes and Court rules]. Then click on [California Statutes Annotated Historical] under the TOOLS & RESOURCES list on the right. Historical codes begin with the 1987 edition.
Internet: Not available.
California Legislative Services
California's Legislature meets yearly to pass new laws. Legislative services identify updates to the California Code from the latest enactments of the California legislature. Legislative services also contain such information as senate and assembly bills by chapter, constitutional amendments, selected resolutions, and propositions.
West's California Legislative Service. Library retains in print for 5 yrs. The current edition is shelved with the West's Annotated California Codes. Prior editions are shelved in the Historical Collection in compact shelving (KFC 30 .W4).
Advance Legislative service to Deering's California Codes Annotated. Library retains in print for 5 years. The current edition is shelved with the Deering's California Codes Annotated. Prior editions are shelved in the Historical Collection in compact shelving (KFC 30 .5 .D4 Z65).
Print access to older legislation may be obtained by contacting the Witkin State Law Library at 900 N Street, Sacramento, CA 95814.
WestlawNext: Click on the tab [State Materials], then click on [California]. Scroll down and click on the heading: [California Proposed & Enacted Legislation]. Click on [California Enacted Legislation] then [Enacted Legislation (Session Laws)]. You may browse the most recent session laws or search all session laws passed during the current legislative session in the search box provided above.
Internet: Current legislative information from the California Legislature is available at www.leginfo.ca.gov/legpubs.html and includes the Daily File, Legislative Index, Table of Sections Affected, Statutory Record, and Senate and Assembly Journals. The California Legislature's web site provides full text of bills, resolutions, and constitutional amendments, and their status, history, votes, analyses, and veto messages. Session information beginning in 1993-1994 is available online at www.legislature.ca.gov/the_state_legislature/bill_information/bill_information.html.
California's original Constitution of 1849 was replaced by the current Constitution in 1879. However, the 1879 Constitution has been revised and amended several times, most notably in 1966 and 1976, when the state adopted recommendations of the California Constitution Revision Commission.
Volumes including the current edition of the California Constitution are contained in Deering's California Codes Annotated (KFC 30 .5 .D4 C66 (Compact)), and West's Annotated California Codes (KFC 30 .W48 Z3).
Historical: Older versions of the California Constitution are located in the Historical Collection in compact shelving. The earliest state constitutions are sometimes bound with older editions of the California General Laws, Statutes, at KFC 30 .A2 (Historical).
You may search our online catalog (use the key words "California constitution") to identify the publication dates of the older constitutions in our collection. Ask at the Reference Desk for a chart of all available historical California codes that include the constitutions.
WestlawNext: Click on Tab [State Materials] and click on [California]. Click on [California Statutes and Court Rules] to find links to the Constitution of the State of California 1879, and the Constitution of 1849 the State of California with Amendments (Superseded by Constitution of 1879).
Internet: The current California Constitution: www.leginfo.ca.gov/const-toc.html. The Constitution of the State of California of 1849: www.sos.ca.gov/archives/collections/1849/full-text.htm. The 1879 California Constitution: www.sos.ca.gov/archives/collections/1879/archive/1879-constitution.pdf.
The California Code of Regulations (CCR), comprised of 28 Titles, contains the regulations of approximately 200 state agencies made available by the Office of Administrative Law (OAL). Title 24, the California Building Standards Code, is not maintained by the OAL, but by the California Building Standards Commission. The OAL contracts for the official publication of the CCR every five years. Thomson Reuters (West) holds the current contract, and publishes Barclay's Official California Code of Regulations, shelved at KFC 34 .A23 (Ready Reference).
Historical: Not available in print.
WestlawNext: Click on Tab [State Materials] and click on [California]. Scroll down to the heading Regulations and click on [California Regulations] for the current CCR. For historical regulations beginning in 2002, click on [California Historical Regulations] under the TOOLS & RESOURCES list on the right.
Internet: The current edition of the CCR is provided online for free by Thomson Reuters (West) under contract with the Office of Administrative Law. Click on search at govt.westlaw.com/calregs/Index?transitionType=Default&contextData=(sc.Default).
California Code of Regulations, Title 24
The Building Standards Commission (BSC) is the "author" of the various codes (Building, Energy, Fire, Mechanical, Plumbing, etc.) that make up Title 24, the California Building Standards Code. These codes are based on Uniform Model Codes that are published (and copyrighted) bythe International Conference of Building Officials, the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials, and other such similar-sounding organizations. California's official building codes (with the necessary California amendments) are published by the International Code Council (ICC) on a triennial basis. The current Code is shelved by the CCR in Ready Reference; prior editions, back to 1995, are shelved at KFC 35 .A25 in the Historical Collection in compact shelving.
WestlawNext: not available.
Internet: on the BSC website at www.bsc.ca.gov/. This website includes the 2013 (current code), and the previous codes for 2007 and 2010.
California Regulatory Notice Register
Before the OAL can adopt an agency regulation, it must be published in the California Regulatory Notice Register and a time for comments must be provided. The Register contains these notices by state regulatory agencies to adopt, amend, or repeal regulations, plus public comments and much, much more. The Library retains 6 years plus current, located at KFC 35 .A2 in the Historical Collection in compact shelving.
WestlawNext: Not available in our subscription.
Internet: Current year and archives to 2009) at www.oal.ca.gov/California_Regulatory
_Notice_Online.htm and earlier archives (2002-2008) are available at www.oal.ca.gov/
Notice_Register_Archives.htm. The Notice Register has been published since 1974. Print access to Notice Registers prior to 2002 may be obtained by contacting the Witkin State Law Library at 900 N Street, Sacramento, CA 95814.
California Court Rules
Volumes including the state-wide California Rules of Court are contained in both Deering's California Codes Annotated (KFC 30.5 .D4 R8 [Compact]), and West's Annotated California Codes (KFC 30 .W48 C56). Current editions of federal, state, and local California court rules are kept at the Reference Desk:
California Rules of Court: State KFC 992 .A31
California Rules of Court: Federal District CourtsKFC 992 .A32
Northern California Local Court Rules KFC 992 .A21
Southern California Local Court Rules KFC 992 .A2
The Standard California Codes: Rules of Court (includes Rules of Prof. Conduct) KFC 30. 5. D4 R86
Rules of the Superior Court in and for the County of Sacramento KFC 993 .A3 S23
Historical: Rules of the Superior Court in and for the County of Sacramento. Library has 1994 to prior year in the Historical Collection in compact shelving at KFC 993 .A3 S23.
Deering's California Desktop Code Series: set includes Rules of Court. Library has 1979-prior year in the Historical Collection in compact shelving at KFC 30 .5 .D4 C56.
WestlawNext: Click on Tab [State Materials] and click on [California]. Click on [California Statutes and Court Rules] which links to current editions of: the Bay Area Local Court Rules, Central California Local Court Rules, Los Angeles County Court Rules, Northern California Local Court Rules, and the Southern California Local Court Rules. For Sacramento Superior Court rules, Click on [Northern California Local Rules] and scroll down to Sacramento and click on [Superior Court]. For current California Rules of Court, from the California tab, click on [California Rules of Court]. For updates to court rules, click on [California Rules Update Orders] under the TOOLS & RESOURCES list on the right.
Internet: California Rules of Court at www.courts.ca.gov/rules.htm, and the Superior Court Local Rules at www.courts.ca.gov/6168.htm.
COURT OPINIONS (CASES)
California Supreme Court
The California Supreme Court cases are published in three reporters: the official California Reports, and two Thomson Reuters (West) reporters, the California Reporter and the Pacific Reporter. The Law Library does not own the Pacific Reporter. California Reports is the official reporter. The Library's collection includes the first series, abbreviated Cal. (1850 - 1934); 2nd series, Cal. 2d (1934 - 1969); 3rd series, Cal. 3d (1969 - 1991); and the 4th series, Cal. 4th (1991 – present), beginning at KFC 45 .A21 (Compact).
West's California Reporter contains West's headnotes and key numbers, and is tied to West's California Digest. California Supreme Court cases are reported in the first series, abbreviated Cal. Rptr. (1960 - 1991); 2nd series, Cal. Rptr. 2d (1991 - 2004); and the 3rd series, Cal. Rptr. 3d (2003 - present), beginning at KFC 51 .W48 (Compact).
West's California Digest, covering 1951-1981 KFC 57 .W47, and West's California Digest 2d, covering 1981-present, are located at KFC 57 .W471 (Compact).
WestlawNext: Click on Tab [State Materials] and click on [California]. Under the heading Cases click on [California Supreme Court]. You may browse the most recent cases or search all cases since 1850 in the search box provided above. Once you are in a case, you may choose to view either the official or the National Reporter System version.
For how to locate a case using West's Topic and Key Number System in WestlawNext, see the "How to Locate a Case Using a Digest" Legal Research Guide on our website at www.saclaw.org/pages/locate-case-west-digest.aspx.
Internet: Citable, published, Official Reports Opinions (1850-present) are made searchable online for free by LexisNexis, via a contract with the California Reporter of Decisions, at www.lexisnexis.com/clients/CACourts/.
California Appellate Courts
The California Court of Appeals cases are published in the official reporter California Appellate Reports and in West's California Reporter.
California Appellate Reports is the official reporter. The Library's collection includes the first series, abbreviated Cal. App. (1905 - 1934); 2nd series, Cal. App. 2d (1934 - 1969); 3rd series, Cal. App. 3d (1969 - 1991); and the 4th series, Cal. App. 4th (1991 - present, beginning at KFC 48 .A212 (Compact).
California Court of Appeals cases are also reported in West's California Reporter (see the California Supreme Court section above for more information).
WestlawNext: Click on Tab [State Materials] and click on [California]. Under the heading Cases click on [California Courts of Appeal]. You may browse the most recent cases or search all cases since 1905 in the search box provided above. Once you are in a case, you may choose to view either the official or the National Reporter System version.
Internet: Citable, published, Official Reports Opinions (1850-present) are made searchable online for free by LexisNexis, via a contract with the California Reporter of Decisions, at www.lexisnexis.com/clients/CACourts/.
Advance Sheets or Slip Opinions
The official advance sheets of the Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal are published by LexisNexis and contain the most recent opinions published by the courts. Often called "slip opinions," these soft-bound volumes are shelved at the end of the California Reports at KFC 45 .A24 (Compact). Published every ten days, the advance sheets are subsequently discarded once the appropriate bound volume is received.
The West California Reporter series also includes advance sheets at the end of the set at KFC 51. W482 (Compact); these weekly advance sheets are subsequently discarded once the appropriate bound volume is received.
WestlawNext is continually updated; occasionally, opinions appear sooner on WestlawNext than on the California Court's website (below).
Internet: The official California Courts web site, updated hourly, provides slip opinions from the California Courts of Appeal and the California Supreme Court issued within the last 60 days at www.courts.ca.gov/supremecourt.htm.
Administrative agencies may be established directly by the Constitution, as the Public Utilities Commission, for example, or be created by or have authority delegated to them from the legislature. Agencies may sometimes be called Commissions or Boards. Many California executive and administrative agencies, in addition to promulgating regulations, render decisions within their realm of purview.
For a list of agency decisions published in print, please consult Chapter 8 of Henke's California Law Guide, 8th ed., by Daniel Martin (LexisNexis 2006), at KFC 74 .H46 (Reference). (Note that this list may be somewhat out of date). Most California agencies publish their decisions on their websites. Many state agencies no longer publish their decisions in print.
The Law Library collects a small, select group of California administrative agency decisions in print. Of that group, we discontinued collecting the opinions in print if the agency subsequently made its adjudications available on the agency's website. To find agency decisions in print, search the online catalog by the name of the agency.
WestlawNext: to find California administrative agency decisions: Click on Tab [State Materials] and click on [California]. Click on [California Administrative Decisions & Guidance] to find links to agencies. Then click on the agency name. Approximately 13 (thirteen) agencies are listed.
Internet: The Law Library has compiled a list of many California agencies with administrative decisions on the Internet at www.diigo.com/list/saclaw/california-agency-decisions. The list is lengthy (approximately 34 pages), although not comprehensive.
Popular California Agencies
Listed on the following pages are some of the better known California agencies and information on where to locate their decisions in print at the Law Library, in WestlawNext, or on the Internet.
Attorney General Opinions Opinions of the Attorney General of California, current and historical. The Law Library has v. 1 – current (1944-present) at KFC 780 .A8 C3 (Compact).
WestlawNext: coverage begins with 1977.
Internet: coverage begins with 1986 at oag.ca.gov/opinions.
Division of Labor Standards Enforcement Actions
Administrative decisions issued by the California Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). The Law Library does not collect in print.
WestlawNext: coverage begins with 2000.
Internet: Opinion Letters only begin in 1983 at www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/DLSE_OpinionLetters.htm.
Environmental Administrative Decisions
Decisions released by the State Water Resources Control Board and the Department of Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission (commonly referred to as the California Energy Commission, or CEC). The Law Library does not collect in print.
WestlawNext: coverage of the State Water Resources Control Board begins with 1957. Coverage of CEC's decisions begins with 1982.
Internet: State Water Resources Board Resolutions, Orders & Decisions. Coverage varies by type of ruling at www.swrcb.ca.gov/board_decisions/adopted_orders/. The CEC's Precedential Decisions (coverage begins in 2008) are at www.energy.ca.gov/commission/precedent_decisions.html. The CEC's proceedings (coverage begins in 2005) are at www.energy.ca.gov/dockets/major_dockets.html.
Fair Employment & Housing Commission Decisions
Precedential Decisions of the California Fair Employment and Housing Commission. The Law Library has 1978-2002 at KFC 572 .A5 (Compact). No longer published in print.
WestlawNext: coverage begins with 1978.
Internet: Case alerts to California and federal decisions, cases pending, new laws on employment and housing discrimination, public accommodations, and hate violence are at www.dfeh.ca.gov/Publications_StatLaws.htm.
Legal Ethics Opinions
Ethics opinions published by the State Bar of California, Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct. The Law Library has the California Compendium on Professional Responsibility and Conduct at KFC 76.5 .C3 C64. The Library also has the California State Bar Court Reporter at KFC 76 .5 .A5 (Compact) which contains precedential appellate opinions in California attorney disciplinary and regulatory cases from 1992 to present.
WestlawNext:A dvisory opinion coverage begins with 1977.
Internet: Ethics opinions since 1965: ethics.calbar.ca.gov/Ethics/Opinions.aspx.
Occupational Safety & Health Appeals Board Decisions
The Cal-OSHA Reporter contains digests of decisions released by Occupational Safety & Health Appeals Board.
The Law Library does not collect in print. Access to online searchable archives and all COSHAB decisions via the Law Library's premium subscription is available on the Public Menu under Other Electronic Resources. Request login assistance at the Reference Desk.
WestlawNext: Coverage begins with 1974.
Internet: Some free limited searching of the The Cal OSHA Reporter is available on their website at www.cal-osha.com/Home.aspx. Decisions after Reconsideration are available from May 4, 1999 to present at www.dir.ca.gov/oshab/DAR_Decisions.html.
Decisions of the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB).
PERB is charged with administering the seven collective bargaining statutes covering California public employees.
Located in the Law Library at KFC 562 .P8 A855 (Compact). Coverage: 2007 – present.
WestlawNext: Coverage begins with 1982.
Internet: Not all decisions are currently available, but PERB's goal is to eventually add all decisions to their website at perb.ca.gov/decisionbank/search.aspx.
Public Officials Ethics Opinions
Opinions and advice letters issued by the California Fair Political Practices Commission. The Law Library does not collect in print.
WestlawNext: Coverage begins with 1975.
Internet: Advisory opinions, declaratory rulings, and enforcement actions (coverage varies according to type of administrative ruling and code section violated) at www.ct.gov/ethics/cwp/view.asp?a=3488&Q=414904ðicsNav=|44061|.
Blue Sky Securities, Administrative Decisions
Opinion letters, rulings, and orders prepared by the California Department of Corporations Effective July 2013, the Department of Corporations (DOC) and the Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) had merged to form the Department of Business Oversight. The Law Library does not collect in print.
WestlawNext: coverage begins with 1969.
Internet: Commissioner's releases, opinions and bulletins are available on their website: www.dbo.ca.gov/Commissioner/default.asp.
State Personnel Board Decisions
Precedential Decisions of the California State Personnel Board.
The Law Library has 1992-2002 in print at KFC 763 .A553.
WestlawNext: coverage begins with 1992.
Internet: Coverage varies according to Government Code § 19572 violation or other related civil service issue on the agency's website at www.spb.ca.gov/precedential
decisions/precedentialdecisions.aspx. (This web page is undergoing revision; check back for access to decisions.)
Taxation Administrative Decisions
Decisions and Sales and Use Tax Annotations released by the California State Board of Equalization and the California Franchise Tax Board.
The Law Library does not collect in print.
WestlawNext: Coverage begins with 1930.
Internet: Coverage of the Franchise & Income Tax Formal Legal Opinions begins in 1930; Coverage of the Business & Special Taxes Memorandum Opinions begins in 1967 at www.boe.ca.gov/legal/legalopcont.htm.
Workers' Compensation Appeals Board Decisions
Decisions released by the California Department of Industrial Relations–Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) as well as summaries of petitions for review of WCAB decisions that were denied by the California Court of Appeals. The Law Library has California Compensation Cases, v. 1 (1936) – current, at KFC 592 .C3 (Compact) in print.
WestlawNext: Coverage begins with May 1981 for the WCAB decisions and 2007 for the Writ Denied Summaries.
Internet: En banc decisions (1997-present), significant panel decisions (1997-present), and cases pending on appellate grants at www.dir.ca.gov/WCAB/wcab_dars.htm.
Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board
CUIAB Index-digest of precedent decisions. The Law Library does not collect in print.
WestlawNext: Not available.
Internet: Various indexes to precedential decisions including those on unemployment benefits, disability, tax, and work incentive program decisions, at www.cuiab.ca.gov/
If you have questions about this guide or if you need help finding or using the materials listed, please ask a reference librarian.
updated JC 6/2014