Wednesday, May 30, 2012

50 State Surveys

50 state surveys compile citations to statutes and regulations of more than one state on a particular subject. In the past, compiling 50 state surveys was a very time-consuming task. Before the widespread use of online legal resources, researchers had to examine each state print resource and locate the appropriate statutory language. Complicating this laborious task was the fact that many states refer to the same legal concept with different legal terminology. For example, while some states use the term "Statute of Limitations" to refer to the law that bars claims after a specified period, other states use "Nonclaim Statute" or "Limitations Period." Although a little easier online, this issue of terminology still presented difficulties.

Thanks to competition among various online resource providers, there are now a multitude of sources that have done the tedious work for you. Many of these resources include helpful state-by-state analysis tables. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that there has been a compilation on your specific topic, but it's worthwhile to check these sources first. One additional caveat is that the fee-based sources can be cost prohibitive if you do not have an academic subscription.



The SURVEYS database contains a variety of topical surveys providing references to applicable state laws. Tables in PDF format, where provided, include summaries and legal analysis for important subtopics with related statutory provisions. You may be able to search narrower databases by subject, such as family law, depending on your subscription. 

Searching in SURVEYS, I found numerous results for same-sex marriage, including a Table of Defense of Marriage Statutes and Constitutional Provisions. 

You can image how long it would take to compile this table from scratch.

Lexis has a few sources that compile state laws, which means you may have to look in more than one source.

  • 50 State Surveys of Statutes and Regulations presents general statutory and regulatory provisions covering the designated topics. Each survey contains links to relevant codes and regulations on a particular topic.
  • Multi-Jurisdictional Surveys with Analysis are compilations of key information about important legal issues in banking, business, commercial (UCC), corporate, environmental, family, insurance, international, labor & employment, litigation practice & procedure, real estate, tax, and torts. Each survey includes the citation reference and a summary of the rule or regulation, with practice insights as available. 
  •  Legal Research Center Surveys are compilations of key information about important legal issues across all fifty states provided by Legal Research Center, Inc.  They give the researcher the ability to compare the rules and regulations across jurisdictions.

Subject Compilations of State Laws (1960-2012) helps researchers locate records for items of significance for state statutory research. If the item is available on HeinOnline, there will be a direct link.


This database contains the full text of every bill in the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Congress for the current session. You can pick from a selection of available 50 state surveys.

Wex provides an outline of topics that covers the broad array of state statutes available on the internet.


Although you may be tempted to stop researching once you find a 50 state survey, remember that you MUST update the sources to be sure there were no legislative changes.

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