What is a law?

A law is a statute, ordinance, or regulation passed by Congress, the California State Legislature, or any other State Legislature, or by a local government, such as the City of San Francisco. There are many resources available in the Library and online to find a specific law or legislative enactment. The Reference Staff will gladly assist in helping to locate a current or archived law.


California Laws

The California Constitution and laws are available in print in the Law Library, in annotated form. Annotations are additional research information provided such as the date of enactment, a listing of any appellate court cases interpreting aspects of the law, and references to articles or other reference materials that may help to clarify the application or history of a particular statute. An online source for the California Constitution and statutes is and additional research is available through the Law Library databases for Westlaw, Lexis, and Fastcase.

Federal Laws

The framework for all American law is the United States Constitution. The U.S. Congress enacts legislation applying to all of the 50 states, as the U.S. Code. The Library has in print form the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. Code, in annotated form. Multiple online sources permit viewing and searching of the U.S. Code. The United States Constitution is available online at GPO Access: The U.S. Code is online at

San Francisco

The Charter of the City and County of San Francisco, along with all of its Municipal Codes, are available in print in the Library. The library also maintains an Archived Collection of older San Francisco municipal codes. The current San Francisco Municipal Code may be found at


Please see the Law Library’s Legal Research links pages for additional information and links to San Francisco, California and Federal law resources.