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Columbia Human Rights Law Review - page 12 / 27





12 / 27

Ch. 2



the statutory provisions. The book index breaks down the general subject of Criminal Procedure into smaller topics and subtopics.

Following each subtopic is a list of statutory sections that deal with that subtopic, so you can review the subtopics to find statutory provisions that may be helpful for your research. For example, on the issue of “nighttime searches,” the book index in any of the volumes of 11A shows a section on “procedures for securing evidence,” and another on “search warrants.” If you go to the volume of 11A that contains the legislation on search warrants (Sections 690.05 to 690.55) and turn to the beginning of that section, you will see another listing of even more specific subtopics that includes “search warrants; when executable” (Section 690.30). Turning to that section of the legislation, you will find that, in New York, search warrants may only be used between 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. unless the warrant provides otherwise. Thus, you have found a law to support your complaint if the warrant used to search your house did not explicitly allow the search to be conducted at night. After the text of Section 690.30, you will find a “Practice Commentaries” and a “Notes of Decisions” section that contains summaries of a number of cases applying this legal rule to various circumstances. Updating your findings by turning to the pocket part of that volume reveals several more recent cases on nighttime searches.

Do not be discouraged if you are having trouble finding a relevant law. Research takes time, and you may need to try the general index, the title or book index, or even a little browsing before you can find relevant legislation. Or, your case may be governed by court cases rather than legislation. Finding case law is the subject of Part C(2)(d) of this Chapter.

(vi) Legislative History

When reading legislation, the “legislative intent,” or what the legislators hoped the statute would accomplish, is sometimes unclear. Knowing the legislative intent can often help you to better understand the legislation. It may help you apply the legal rule to the facts of your case. Your exact factual situation may not have been considered by the legislators when they created the law. The best way to find legislative intent is to review the “legislative history” of the legislation. State legislative history is difficult to find and often cannot be found at all. This Subsection will concentrate on how to find the legislative history of federal laws and therefore learn the congressional purpose behind federal legislation.

Legislative history consists of the written record of what Congress considered before passing a law. It includes the text of the bill18 introduced into the legislature, any later amendments (changes) to the bill, committee and conference reports19, congressional hearings, and the debates of the House of Representatives and Senate. Committee reports are produced by the Congressional Committees that review legislation. Conference reports are produced by “conferences” set up when the House and Senate pass different versions of the same legislation. Because the conference report is produced jointly by the committees of both the Senate and the House just before the final passage of the legislation, it is perhaps the most important source of legislative intent.

Legislative history is found in many books that are not located in prison libraries. However, one publication, the United States Code Congressional and Administrative News (“U.S.C.C.A.N.”), publishes “compiled” legislative histories that bring several sources together in one place. Although the U.S.C.C.A.N. does not provide all legislative history, it is the only source of legislative history you are likely to find in a prison library. There are several volumes of the U.S.C.C.A.N. for each year. To use these books, you must know the year in which the statute was passed. The U.S.C.A. tells you the year the statute was passed at the end of each section. It may also tell you where in the U.S.C.C.A.N. to find the legislative history. Each set of annual U.S.C.C.A.N. volumes also contains a table of “Legislative History.” This table lists all the laws passed during that year and identifies certain parts of the legislative history. To find legislative history in U.S.C.C.A.N., look in the index found in the last volume of that year. Search the index for the name or the subject matter of the statute you are researching. The index will list the page number where you can find legislative history for that topic. The volumes of U.S.C.C.A.N. with “Legislative History” on their spines contain the text of the legislative report from the House of Representatives or the Senate.

  • 18.

    A statute is called a “bill” before it is passed by legislators.

  • 19.

    The House of Representatives and the Senate are subdivided into committees that work in a particular area.

For example, the House Judiciary Committee works on legislation that concerns the federal judiciary.

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