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What is a Slip Law?

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  • Written By: Matthew F.
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 March 2014
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A slip law is the first original publication of a Federal statute. Created by the Archivist of the United States, they are the first duplicate copies made of the original document, which is signed by the president. Slip laws are compiled in the United States Code, and have been made for every general and permanent law signed into the legislation of the United States. They are assembled annually by the United States Archivist and are published as the United States Statutes at Large.

The official text of the laws enacted by Congress are called “enrolled bills,” and are printed on parchment and signed by the president. After they are enacted, they are archived and duplicated by the Archivist. A copy of this is known as a slip law, or unbound law, and is issued in unbound pamphlets by the Government Printing Office. The slip law carries a heading indicating the public or private law number, the bill number, the date of approval, and a citation in the United States Statutes at Large.

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The slip law is complimented with marginal and editorial notes from the Office of the Federal Register’s National Archives and Records Administration. These notes explain details of the law and provide a number of important details, including: the United States Code classification, the history of the law, the committee report number, the names of the committees in each house, the date of the consideration and passage in each house, and a reference to the Congressional record by volume and date.

By law of Section 113 of Title 1 of the United States code, a slip law is legal and competent evidence of laws enacted in the United States. Where it would be impractical to make available the original copy of the parchment laws to all courts, lawyers, and judges across the country, a slip law is relied on as official evidence of the laws enacted by the government. They contain all of the details of the law as written and are codified in two different sources.

The United States Code, published every six years by the Law Revision Counsel of the House of Representatives, contains every slip law and is arranged by subject matter under 50 easily searchable topics. The United States Statutes at Large, conversely, is published every year with each slip law in chronological order, and because of a lack of topical organization is not as convenient as the United States Code. A related statute or slip law passed in a different year may be archived nowhere near another slip law, and so would require cross-referencing and a knowledge of the history of the laws.

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