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MSL Introduction to Legal Research: Statutes

Legal research assistance for MSL students writing seminar papers.


Bills are proposed laws.

Codified laws are a topical arrangement of the laws currently in force. The United States Code is the official codification of the laws passed by the federal Congress whereas the New Mexico Statutes Annotated is the official codification of New Mexico's laws.

Session Laws are a collection of the laws passed in a particular legislative session, in the order they were passed.

Statutes are laws enacted by legislative bodies.

Searching for Statutes in Westlaw

By Citation

Using the search box at the top of the screen, enter the citation.

If you don't know the citation format for the statute, click on Statutes & Court Rules then pick your jurisdiction. Once in the table of contents/search page for that jurisdiction's statutes, look at the blue box all the way on the right side of the screen and click on the Find Template. Enter the citation numbers and you will be taken directly to the statute.

By Keyword

  1. Click on Statutes & Court Rules then pick your jurisdiction.
  2. Think carefully about search options and limits, you have the Table of Contents, Index, and Advanced Search fields available to you. Using these thoughtfully will keep your results list from overwhelming you.
  3. Enter your search terms.
  4. Look through your results for the relevant statute. If you read one and it is not what you wanted, click on Return to List to get back to the results list.

Working with Statutes in Westlaw

Table of Contents. Click on this button, located in the banner just below the tabs, to see where your statute falls within the table of contents.  This provides context for your statute -- look for short title, purpose, definitions, etc.

History Line. At the end of the statute's text is a section called Credits. This tells you the statute's history. 


L. 1985, Ch. 168, § 21; L. 1987, Ch. 249, § 51; L. 1999, Ch. 267, § 35; L. 2015, Ch. 145, § 86, eff. July 1, 2015.

In this example, the statute was originally enacted in 1985 and amended in 1987, 1999, and 2015. The text of the current statute was passed in 2015. The language that was in effect from 1998 to 2015 is available in the 1999 session laws at chapter 267, section 35. The more recent session laws will be linked in Westlaw whereas older ones can be accessed in Hein Online or in print.

Tabs. There are tabs for Notes of Decisions, History, Citing References, Context & Analysis.

  • Notes of Decisions. This tab contains summaries of cases that have analyzed or interpreted the statute along with key number references.
  • History. Look here for legislative history materials such as committee reports, floor testimony, and executive messages. A more complete legislative history can be accessed in ProQuest Congressional.
  • Citing References. Lists all items that have cited the statute.
  • Context & Analysis. Look here for cross references to other sections of the statutes as well as references to other finding aids.

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