There are a variety of legal databases and search engine available online that provide free access to state and federal laws, local ordinances, law journals and proposed federal and state legislation. A number of the websites listed allow searches to be conducted directly through their site, while others provide outside links to individual websites.
It should be noted that while these sites do provide resources that can be utilized by the legal community, it is up to the user to verify both the source and validity of the information provided. Addresses for websites change constantly so links within a website that may be active today may not be active in the future.
General Legal Research Resources
The Legal Information Institute is a not for profit organization housed at the Cornell Law School. Their website allows the public to access a large number of legal collections free of charge including the U.S. Code, the Code of Federal Regulations, the Uniform Commercial Code, and federal and state statutes.
The United States Government Printing Office’s Federal Digital System (GPO’s FD sys) provides free online access to official publications from all three branches of the federal government. Through FDsys, the user is able to search for documents and publications, browse by collection, Congressional committee, or date, access metadata about documents and publications and download documents and publications in multiple renditions or file formats.
The Guide to Law Online, prepared by the Law Library of Congress Public Services Division, is an annotated guide to sources of information on government and law available online. It includes selected links to legal information in a variety of areas.
The FindLaw website provides both consumer and professional information on legal issues. The professional website provides free access to statutes and caselaw from a number of jurisdictions. It also provides legal news and forums.
The USA.gov website offers in depth information on a number of topics that are of interest to local government staff. Each topic area provides links to agencies, government regulations, best practices, model forms and other useful documents.
The University Law Review Project provides access to law journals by topic and by school on a national basis. While some of the websites listed provide only partial access, others allow the user to search journal archives.
Legislative Research Resources
THOMAS was launched in 1995 by the Library of Congress to make federal legislative information freely available to the public. Since that time THOMAS has expanded the scope of its offerings to include bills and resolutions, activity in Congress including the Congressional record, schedules and calendars, committee information, and government resources.
The Georgia General Assembly provides free access to state legislative information through their website. Their tracking database allows the user to track any bill or resolution that has been introduced by year, legislator, committee, bill number or by keyword search. In addition to tracking legislation, the General Assembly’s website also allows the user to view legislative calendars, floor votes, committee schedules, and legislator contact information. It further allows the user free access to LexisNexis for code searches and provides general statute summaries.
Local Ordinance Research Resource
The Municode website allows the user to search county and city ordinances individually or on a statewide basis. There is no cost to search individual county and city ordinances, however to access the statewide or multi-state search feature, a subscription is required.
Attorney General Opinions
The Office of the Attorney General issues official opinions to the Governor and the heads of executive departments and issues unofficial opinions to other state officers, such as legislators, judges or district attorneys. The Attorney General does not generally provide legal advice or opinions to county or municipal governments or officials, but will on request review written legal opinions and conclusions of counsel for local governments. Official and unofficial opinions published from1994 to the present can be searched through the Attorney General’s website.