Mar 08

Uniform Laws and Model Acts

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Libtour: Uniform Laws and Model Acts QR CodeThis LibTour on uniform laws and model acts, which you can download here, was written by Darla Jackson. Darla is the Associate Director of the Law Library at Oklahoma City University School of Law.

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You are trying to interpret a state statute.  The language of the statute seems ambiguous and no courts in your jurisdiction have interpreted the statute. There is no helpful legislative history.  If the statute is based on a uniform or model law, you may find assistance in interpreting in the statute by reviewing the intent of the drafters of the uniform law, the changes made to the text before adoption, and the interpretation of courts in other states that have adopted the uniform or model law.  This CALI LibTour covers the Uniform Laws Annotated (ULA), a multi-volume resource which will assist you in locating not only the text of the uniform or model law but also commentary of the drafters as well as annotations of cases interpreting the language of the uniform or model law.

The organization primarily responsible for drafting uniform laws is the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL).  The NCCUSL is comprised of state appointed commissioners. State legislatures are encouraged to adopt uniform acts exactly as written by the NCCUSL to promote uniformity among the states.  While the NCCUSL has also drafted some model acts, many model acts, including the Model Penal Code, are developed by the American Law Institute (ALI). The ALI, an organization comprised of prominent judges, law professors, and attorneys, is also well known as the group responsible for the Restatements of the Law.  Perhaps the most notable example of a uniform law, the Uniform Commercial Code, was drafted as a joint project of NCCUSL and ALI.  The American Bar Association (ABA) has also been responsible for drafting several and model acts and uniform laws.  For example the Model Business Corporation Act was prepared by the ABA’s Business Law Section.  In contrast to uniform laws, model acts are intended as guidelines, which states may adapt to best address the unique circumstances in that state.

Uniform laws and model laws/acts are compiled in the annotated set, the Uniform Laws Annotated, Master Edition. This set, currently composed of fifteen volumes has a green cover.  Volumes 1-5 of the set contain information related to the Uniform Commercial Code; volumes 6-6A contain business and nonprofit organization laws; volumes 7-7C address business and financial laws; volumes 8-8C include estate, probate and related laws; volumes 9-9C contain laws related to matrimony, family and health; volumes 10-11A include laws related to criminal law, criminal procedure and sentencing; and volumes 12-15A contain laws related to civil procedure, evidence, and remedies.  The topics addressed in that volume, as well as some of the uniform and model laws contained in that volume, appear on the spine of each volume.  Additionally, each volume contains an alphabetical index for uniform or model acts contained in the volume.

Preceding most laws, the ULA sets forth:

– a table of jurisdictions where the act has been adopted, which also provides citation of the state statutory provisions containing the adopted law;
– prefatory notes and historical notes detailing the historical development of the law as well as the significant changes and the driving factors for change.
– general statutory notes, which set forth repeal of previous state statutes addressing the issue and enactment of the current law;
– information regarding jurisdictions adopting the uniform law in a manner precluding comparative notes; an
– an outline of the act.

Additionally, each section of a uniform law or model act may provide:

– the text of the law or act;
– comments of the drafting body;
– law review commentaries and library references, including West topic and key numbers as well as reference to secondary sources, including legal encyclopedia; and
– notes of decisions

The ULA Masters Edition is also supplemented by an annual pamphlet designated as the Directory of Uniform Acts and Codes.  This resource contains a Directory of Uniform Acts, which provides an alphabetical listing of uniform laws and model acts as well as information regarding the volume and page number where the act is included in the ULA.  The pamphlet also contains a table of jurisdictions, listing uniform acts adopted in a particular jurisdiction, and an alphabetical cross reference index to the uniform laws and model acts.

Westlaw, and WestlawNext also provide access to model acts and uniform laws. Westlaw provides access in its Uniform Laws Annotated database

Some Uniform Laws are also available via the NCCUSL Drafts and Final Acts page of the University of Pennsylvania Law School.  The Legal Information Institute (LII), hosted by Cornell University, also provides information regarding state adoptions of some uniform laws. HeinOnline’s American Law Institute Library and National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws Archive also contain some historical and current uniform and model acts.   Model acts and uniform laws may also be found on LexisNexis by selecting the secondary legal resources and then the “Model Acts & Uniform Laws” section.  LexisNexis then links to the model acts and uniform laws sources provided by Martindale-Hubbell.  However, notes of decisions and library references are not available via these sources.  Further, LexisNexis provides limited capability to browse by table of contents and most resources are available only by searching.

If you need additional assistance locating uniform laws or model acts, there is also a CALI Legal Research lesson entitled Researching Uniform and Model Laws that may be useful.