This fall, ZiefBrief worked with several students who were helping a professor find the laws of all 50 states on a specific topic. They came to the reference desk downcast at the thought of searching state by state by state…. They went away encouraged, having learned of three tools that can cut hours - or days - off of 50-state research projects.
- Subject Compilations of State Laws - Initially the work of Lynn Foster and Carol Boast, Subject Compilations is now carried on by the incomparable Cheryl Rae Nyberg. Each annual volume is organized by topic, and lists books, web sites, articles, and other documents that cite to (or reproduce) state laws on the topic in question. Even though Subject Compilations is not available online, it's our favorite tool for answering those "what are all of the state laws on X subject" questions. In the Zief Library, you'll find Subject Compilations at KF 1 .F67 Law Reference.
- National Survey of State Laws, edited by Richard A. Leiter - A one-volume set that summarizes (and cites to) state statutes on 45 topics in 8 broad categories. National Survey doesn't have the depth of coverage of Subject Compilations, but if you're dealing with a major topic like capital punishment, minimum wages, or child custody, you'll probably find the answer faster in National Survey. Zief's copy is at KF 386 .N38 2003 Law Reference.
- Westlaw’s 50 State Surveys (SURVEYS) database - Combines the National Survey of State Laws with Legal Research Center's Multijurisdictional Surveys. Researchers can browse by topic or search by key word.
If your research problem involves regulations rather than statutes, you'll find helpful citations in Subject Compilations of State Laws. If you are a Westlaw subscriber, you can also try the REG-SURVEYS database. For more information, See our post Westlaw's 50 State Regulatory Surveys - Relieving (Some of) the Pain of Multi-State Regulatory Research.
[Update, 1.30.2007] Our colleagues at Heafey Headnotes point out that Harvard Law Library has an excellent guide to Multi-State Legal Research listing dozens of tools to alleviate the pain of 50-state research projects. Though the guide is geared to researchers at Harvard, academic law libraries will have most of the tools it mentions. (Thanks, Prano!)