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Finding California Legislative History

A guide and checklist for finding California Legislative materials of use to legal researchers.

Check for California Law Revision Commission Reports (1953– )

The California Law Revision Commission "is an independent state agency created by statute in 1953. It assists the Legislature and Governor by examining California law and recommending needed reforms." Its work is useful to legislative history researchers because in recommending revised legislation to the legislature, it issues reports that include "a narrative explanation of the proposed law, proposed statutory language, and official Comments on each affected code section."

Useful documents you might find include: "Printed Reports"; "Tentative Recommendations"; "Staff Memoranda"; and "Background Studies."

Print sources, Zief Law Library

California Law Revision Commission Reports Recommendations and Studies. (1957– ). KFC 27 .A3 Law Stacks

Free online sources

California Law Revision Commission are available on its web site.

Check for Historical Code Revision Information

Depending on when the code section you are researching was enacted, these sources may have some useful background information.

Reports and other documents of the California Code Commission, 1929–1953

USF's Zief Law Library does not have these reports. To find them, check with the libraries listed in the Other Libraries section of this guide. Search their catalogs author: "California Code Commission." (The California State Library has a particularly good collection.)

Histories of selected California codes in supersededWest Annotated Code volumes

Consider these if your code section was enacted relatively early in California's history. With one exception, these may all be found on microfiche in Fiche Cabinet 9, Drawers 3 to 7.

  • Civil Code: Arvo Van Alstyne, "The California Civil Code," 6 West's Annot. Cal. Codes 1-43 (1954)
  • Code of Civil Procedure: Justin Miller, "History of the California Code of Civil Procedure," 23 West;s Annot. Cal. Codes 1-44 (1955).
  • Education Code: Joseph L. Knowles, "The Education Code," 26 West's Annot. Cal. Codes XLIX-LVIII (1955). [Not available on microfiche at USF. Consult a Zief Library research librarian for help locating this title. Available at in print the Hastings Law Library and the Berkeley Law Library.]
  • Government Code: Charles Aikin, "The Government of California," 32 West's Annot. Cal. Codes 1-29 (1955).
  • <Insurance Code: Sidney L. Weinstock and John B. Maloney, "History and Development of Insurance Law in California," 42 West's Annot. Cal. Codes 1-57 (1955).
  • Probate Code Lowell Turrentine, "Introduction to the California Probate Code," 52 West's Annot. Cal. Codes 1-40 (1956).
  • Public Utilities Code: Roderick B. Cassidy, "Public Utility Regulation in California," 57 West's Annot. Cal. Codes 1-24 (1956).
  • Revenue and Taxation Code: J. Gould, "The California Tax System," 59 West's Annot. Cal. Codes 1-77 (1956).
  • Vehicle Code: J. Allen Davis and Harry V. Cheshire, Jr., "California Motor Vehicle Legislation," 66 West's Annot. Cal. Codes 1-57 (1960).
  • Water Code: J. D. Strauss and George H. Murphy, "California Water Law in Perspective," 68 West's Annot. Cal. Codes 1-49 (1956).

Check for Executive Agency and Court Agency Reports

The Executive Agency or Department that Sponsored the Bill

If your research reveals that a California executive branch agency sponsored the bill, you may want to contact that agency to see if it still has any files (which may include unpublished or otherwise hard-to-find material) on that bill.

California Judicial Council

The California Judicial Council is a non-legislative arm of the courts that may sponsor legislation or issue reports on topics that are also under legislative consideration.

The Zief Law Library has print copies of California Judicial Council Reports for 1967 to the present at KFC 951 .A83. (Current year in Law Stacks; previous years in Law Compact Storage.) Recent Judicial Council reports are available on the Council's web site.

Check for Law Review Articles

An article on the law you are researching may discuss its background and may even cite to useful documents.

Especially note articles from the McGeorge Law Review/Pacific Law Journal (in print at K 16 .A26 Law Stacks, the State Bar Journal (1921–1981, in print at K 3 .A536 Law Stacks), and the California Lawyer (1981–present, in print at K 3 .A537 Law Stacks). For older legislation, also check CEB's Review of Selected Code Legislation (in print at KFC 27 .R4 Law Compact Storage).

Since 1970 McGeorge Law Review (Pacific Law Journal prior to 1997) has published a review of selected California legislation of the prior year first issue of each volume. This may review give some leads on legislative history sources.

Finding law review articles on California legislation

Index to Legal Periodicals can be particularly helpful because it lets you search by statute name or by subject. (The Zief Law Library's Finding Articles guide has more tools for finding law review articles.)

Check for Newspaper Articles

Articles in non-legal newspapers (such as the Los Angeles Times, the Sacramento Bee, and the San Francisco Chronicle) may provide clues to the background and purpose of the legislation. The Sacramento Bee, as the Capitol's paper, has particularly good legislative coverage.

Most newspapers have web sites containing current (and sometimes archival) materials — though you may hit a pay wall if you are not a subscriber. For older statutes, you may need to find the microfilm version of the newspaper. The Gleeson Library at USF keeps microfilm of the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. Other Bay Area libraries that have large microfilm newspaper collections are: San Francisco Public Library and the main library at U.C. Berkeley.

Both Lexis and Westlaw have major California newspapers, and both Lexis and Westlaw have group sources that allow you to search several newspapers at one time. Links to those sources are below.

Selected online sources for California newspapers

Consider a Trip to Another Library

If the USF law library doesn't have what you need, you may want to visit one of the local libraries that has a larger collection of California state publications. These include:

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