Usually the first step in legal research is determining if there is a governing statute, ordinance or rule in effect. Many of the resources needed to locate North Carolina statutes or county and municipal ordinances are available in the Law Library or the nearby School of Government. Only rarely will the researcher have to go to the Legislative Library in Raleigh.
The following titles provide essential background information on the legislature, state agencies, county officials and the law making process in North Carolina.
North Carolina Manual
(Law Library Stacks, latest edition at Reference Desk, JK4130 .N673) is published biennially and contains historical data about North Carolina, biographical information about legislators, information about state agencies, the judiciary, and county officials, election statistics, and other facts of general interest.
(Also available electronically through the UNC catalog or through the N.C. Secretary of State website.)
State Legislative Leadership, Committees, and Staff
(Law Library Stacks JK2403 .B62) is a source containing information on committee objectives, committee leadership, and the individuals associated at the various levels of the legislative structure in North Carolina.
(Held in the Reserve Room, ask for assistance at Circulation Desk) is a collection of the final versions of bills in North Carolina, passed by both houses of the legislature and assigned chapter numbers. The Law Library receives these within a few days of passage. The ratified bill shows additions and deletions made to the language and is helpful in understand the history of the bill. It is also searchable online through the General Assembly of North Carolina website. On the General Assembly's home page, open the tab at the top called Legislation/Bills. This will lead you to a page which will give you tips for searching and finding bills. To find a list of NCGS and Session Laws affected by ratified bills, at the General Assembly's homepage find the Legislative Publications link on your right located under NCGA Division Links. Click on Legislative Publications and then the Bill Drafting Division and then to Bills, SLs and NCGS Reports which will take you to NCGS and Session Laws affected by ratified bills 1997-2010.
Summaries of Substantive Ratified Legislation
(Held in the Rare Book Room, ask for assistance at the Reference Desk, KFN7411.62 .L46) summarizes substantive bills passed during the 1989-2009 sessions. Access is also available for the years 1999-2009 through the General Assembly of North Carolina website. On the left of the screen click on the Legislative Publications link. From there go to the Research Division to find Summaries of Substantive Ratified Legislation.
North Carolina Legislation
(Held in the Rare Book Room, ask for assistance at the Reference Desk, KFN7415 .I531) is a summary of bills passed in each session. Library has 1974-2008.
For current bill status information you can check the NC General Assembly's Bill Reports page or call the Legislative Library at (919) 733-7778.
Session laws are a bound compilation of ratified bills adopted by a session of the legislature. The session laws are divided up by legislative session and arranged chronologically within the volumes. To find a particular statute the researcher must know the year it was passed.
North Carolina Session Laws
(4th Floor North Carolina Reference Collection; 2nd Floor North Carolina Stacks; some older copies in Rare Books Room; KFN7425 .A22; library also has some years on microfiche) are held in hard copy for the years 1777 to the present. Local laws are available online through the General Assembly of North Carolina website beginning with the 1959 session; Public laws are available beginning with the 1983-1984 session. To access this material use the shortcut to Session Laws on the right hand side of the General Assembly homepage.
North Carolina Colonial Session Laws
(Microfiche; KFN7425 .A22) correspond to the years 1715 to 1776.
A statute set has all the public laws currently in force, arranged by subject matter.
General Statutes of North Carolina
(Law Library Stacks, at Reference Desk, and on Reserve, KFN7430 1943 .A24) is the official version published by LexisNexis. It contains at the end of the statute entries derivation notes, which indicate the date of initial passage as well as any subsequent amendments for the statute. It also contains annotations noting cases that have interpreted a statute.
Locating and reading the documents listed in the derivation notes may provide all information needed to ascertain legislative intent. If, however, a careful reading of the documents listed in the notes does not provide a clear answer, it may be necessary to begin a more extensive research process. See the Researching North Carolina Historical and Current Legislation guide for more information.
West's North Carolina General Statutes Annotated
(Law Library Stacks, KFN7430 1943 .A241) is the unofficial annotated version of the general statutes offered by West Publishing. The annotations include notes on cases interpreting the statutes.
The North Carolina General Statutes can also be found online through the General Assembly of North Carolina's website. On the right hand side is a shortcut to the general statutes. The online version does not include case annotations.
County and Municipal Ordinances
Ordinances are laws or regulations created by local governments. The Law Library has scattered holdings of city and county ordinances.
Municipal Code Corporation
is a private company which publishes municipal ordinances for some local governments. The ordinances can be accessed through their online library.
American Legal Publishing Corporation
is another private company that publishes some local North Carolina ordinances. The ordinances can be accessed through their online library.
A few North Carolina counties and towns publish their ordinances on their own websites. A list of county websites can be found through the UNC School of Government's website. The School of Government also has a list of North Carolina city, town and village websites.
North Carolina Register
(4th Floor North Carolina Reference Collection, KFN7434 .A2) includes information about state agency rules, administrative rules, executive orders and other notices. The Register can also be found online at the North Carolina Office of Administrative Hearings website.
The North Carolina Administrative Code is a compilation of current state regulations. These regulations are created by administrative agencies and have full force of law.
State of North Carolina Administrative Code
(4th Floor NC Collection & 2nd Floor North Carolina Stacks, KFN7435 1998 .A26) is a collection of all the rules adopted by approximately 26 state agencies and 50 occupational licensing boards in North Carolina. The Code can also be found online.
North Carolina maintains an official state website which provides comprehensive information on the State of North Carolina. Links are provided to local and national government officials, the NC court system, the General Assembly, state employees, laws and regulations and local government information.
The North Carolina Office of Administrative Hearings website provides a great deal of information concerning the administrative rules, NC Register and administrative rules process. You can also access reports and hearing forms there.
The UNC School of Government's website provides several links for anyone researching local government. Information on the School of Government's website includes links to the North Carolina League of Municipalities, a list of N.C. city and town homepages, a list of N.C. county homepages, the County Government Directory, and N.C. Chambers of Commerce.
The North Carolina Legislative Library also publishes a helpful research guide on finding local government charters and ordinances.