The breaking news -- like that announcing a birth in the hospital after a long labor -- spread quickly today: As of Friday, July 13, 2007 (a very lucky day), Pennsylvania's statutes are available, in official form, online!
[UPDATE: The links referenced below, relating to the Legislature's posting on July 13, 2007, of a version of Official Statutes, were superceded by the Legislature's substitution, approximately January 7, 2008, of West's Purdon's Pennsylvania Statutes (both consolidated & unconsolidated) now found at this link. See: PA EE&F Law Blog posting "West Offers Free Access to PA's Statutes Online" (01/07/08).]
The first news, for me, came in the form of an article emailed by my friend, Mark Hammond, Esq., of Chambersburg, PA. The Associated Press article, entitled "Pa. to put consolidated laws on the Web, last state to do so", was posted at 9:59 pm last evening, Thursday, July 12th, by the Carlisle Sentinel. It was brief, so I post it in full:
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) -- Pennsylvania's consolidated laws will be posted on a publicly available Web site beginning Friday, making it the last state to do so.Then, this morning, Ted Watters, Esq., as the Chairman of the Decedents' Estate Laws Advisory Committee, of the Pennsylvania Joint State Government Commission, sent an email message to all Committee members, which included details, just released. This is his message:
An internal committee of the state Senate, the Committee on Management and Operations, approved a resolution last month to put the consolidated statutes on the official Web site of the state Legislature, www.legis.state.pa.us. A corresponding House committee had previously approved a similar resolution.
Until now, Pennsylvania has been the only state that does not maintain a public Web site that gives people the ability to do their own legal research without purchasing legal textbooks or visiting a law library.
The state's 79 groups of consolidated statutes, from Aeronautics to Zoning, are currently assembled in the 107-volume "Purdon's Pennsylvania Statutes Annotated," with two centuries of cross-references, footnotes and commentary. Purdon's is owned by the St. Paul, Minn.-based West Group, the country's largest legal publisher.
The Legislature began assembling its own consolidated statutes in 1970, but the project remains largely unfinished. Many of the state's unconsolidated laws, such as the Public School Code of 1949, are written under an outdated organizational system.
Many of you have asked whether the PA Consolidated Statutes are available on line. Until this morning, the answer was "no". A resolution was approved last month to put the consolidated statutes on the official Web site of the state legislature, www.legis.state.pa.us .Legislation Enacted Since 1975
Rules and Regulations (PA Code)
Legislative Reference Bureau
[UPDATE: These links, which derived from the Legislature's posting of a version of Official Statutes, were superceded by the Legislature's substitution, approximately January 7, 2008, of West's Purdon's Pennsylvania Statutes (both consolidated & unconsolidated) now found at this link. See: PA EE&F Law Blog posting "West Offers Free Access to PA's Statutes Online" (01/07/08).]
The consolidated statutes are made available in either Text or PDF formats.
By clicking on the links in the text format, you can view either an entire Chapter's statutory sections, or individual sections.
By downloading the PDF version of Title 20, you can have it available as a file on your computer or a network; and by printing it, you can see it in a "book" format (382 pages).
There remains a caveat regarding a significant limitation: Only the consolidated statutory chapters are posted. Pennsylvania still has unconsolidated statutes -- such as many governing real estate -- that have not yet been consolidated. These session laws still must be researched & accessed through the privately-published Purdon's publications, or online through commercial legal resources, such as Westlaw, Lexis, or other database services.
Still, personally, I am elated over this momentous step forward. Since last fall, I advocated by comments at seminars and in email messages sent to legislators & the Governor's Office for an official posting of Pennsylvania's statutes online. Frustrated, I then made postings about the issue on this Blog. See: PA EE&F Law Blog postings "Bills Propose PA Statutes Online!" (06/26/07), and "Sunshine Week" in PA Neglects Statutes (03/20/07). I mentioned the issue most recently in my posting on July 3, 2007, "PA Uniform Trust Act Available Online (Unofficially)".I had sent email messages referencing these posts to Senators & Representatives, the Governor's Office, the Legislative Reference Bureau, the Pennsylvania Bar Association, and the Pennsylvania Newspapers Association, among others. I learned that, technologically, official posting of statutes could be done quickly if political agreement could be attained. Apparently, gratefully, it was.
The Legislature and the Governor have done the right thing; and we all will benefit from it long into the future.
There will come a day in the future when you will talk with a younger professional. You will recall the day (like yesterday) when you could not access Pennsylvania's laws online in an official format. The younger professional will ask you, "How in the world did you ever practice before you could access Pennsylvania's laws online?" You will answer with a smile, "Somehow we did. But I am glad that you don't have to."
The links referenced above, which derived from the Legislature's posting of a version of Official Statutes on July 13, 2007, were superceded by the Legislature's substitution, approximately January 7, 2008, of West's Purdon's Pennsylvania Statutes (both consolidated & unconsolidated) now found at this link.
See: PA EE&F Law Blog posting "West Offers Free Access to PA's Statutes Online" (01/07/08).