Focus on Government Documents: CRS Reports

Congressional Research Serviceby Amy Spare

Reports by the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress are well-researched and highly respected. They cover a wide range of topics. Here are just a few examples:

CRS Reports are prepared at the request of a member of Congress or a Congressional Committee to assist in the drafting of laws, in providing information and analysis of complex issues, and in oversight of enacted laws and government functions. They have been cited by all levels of courts, scholars and the media. They are created with taxpayer dollars. So why then do none of the links to the reports above point to a .gov site? The answer is that these non-confidential reports are NOT routinely made available to the public.

WHY? This is the question recently raised by over 40 organizations (including the American Association of Law Libraries) and 90+ citizens (including me) in a letter to members of Congress urging them to provide consistent access via a government website. There are a number of ways Congress could address this problem. One reasonable approach is the one laid out in House Resolution 34 of the 114th Congress.

A Chart Detailing the Religious Affiliation of Supreme Court Justices from the CRS report on the demographics of the Supreme Court (linked above)

A Chart Detailing the Religious Affiliation of Supreme Court Justices from the CRS report on the demographics of the Supreme Court (linked above)

In the meantime, the only CRS Reports that are available are those have been released by a member of Congress.  Additionally, there are several websites that have collected released CRS reports. None of these sites are comprehensive but it is all we have until Congress acts. Check out the list of CRS Report sites compiled by Archive-It.org. There are also commercial databases that have some of these reports including BloombergLaw, Westlaw, and HeinOnline. Please stop by the Reference Desk for assistance in locating these valuable, and often illusive, reports.

A future post will highlight CRS Reports cited by Villanova Law professors in their scholarship. Stay tuned!

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