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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A few volumes of the CFR at a law library (titles 12-26).

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) is the codification of the general and permanent rules and regulations (sometimes called administrative law) published in the Federal Register by the executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government of the United States. The CFR is published by the Office of the Federal Register, an agency of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

The CFR is divided into 50 titles that represent broad areas subject to Federal regulation.



Administrative law exists because the United States Congress often grants broad authority to executive branch agencies to interpret the statutes in the United States Code (and in uncodified statutes) which the agencies are entrusted with enforcing. Congress may be too busy, congested, or gridlocked to micromanage the jurisdiction of those agencies by writing statutes that cover every possible detail, or Congress may determine that the technical specialists at the agency are best equipped to develop detailed applications of statutes to particular fact patterns as they arise.

Under the Administrative Procedure Act, the agencies are permitted to promulgate detailed rules and regulations through a public "rulemaking" process where the public is allowed to comment, known as public information. After a period of time, the rules and regulations are usually published in the Federal Register.

Effect of administrative law

The regulations are treated by the courts as being as legally binding as statutory law, provided the regulations are a reasonable interpretation of the underlying statutes. This "reasonable interpretation" test or Chevron doctrine was articulated by the U.S. Supreme Court in a unanimous decision (6 voting, 3 recused) involving a challenge to new Clean Air Act regulations promulgated by the Reagan administration in 1981. See Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc.[1]

For example, if Congress passed a law that simply stated that there are not to be "excessive" levels of mercury in any significant body of water in the United States (but defined things no further), an entity designated, as part of the law, to enforce it (probably the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)) could define in a scientific way what an excessive level of mercury is, as well as what constitutes a significant body of water. The Agency's definitions and its plan of enforcement for what Congress intended (along with listed penalties for violation coming from Congress unless Congress specified otherwise) will all go into the CFR.

Also, enabling legislation can be passed by Congress which gives a federal non-Congressional entity wide latitude in creating rules (law of bases). For example, the EPA could be designated by Congress to pass rules "that control harmful pollutants"; the Agency could then pass broad rules (including definitions and enforcement provisions), in the absence of existing specific laws, to control lead emissions, radon emissions, pesticide emissions, and so forth. Such rules, including any definitions and enforcement provisions created by Congress or the Agency, will all go into the CFR.

It is important to understand that the CFR itself is written by lawyers for interpretation by lawyers and judges, and like statutes, must be carefully drafted in highly technical language to have effective broad application, yet limit the availability of loopholes. Unfortunately, the vast majority of employees of the federal government are not lawyers, and it would ask too much to force them to directly read, interpret, and apply the convoluted content of the CFR on a daily basis. Therefore, nearly all federal agencies have in-house counsel draft one or more internal manuals in plain English which set out daily internal operating procedures in very simple language that any layperson can follow. While such manuals do not really have the force of law, they are often the law as far as most employees and customers of such agencies are concerned, unless and until a dissatisfied customer of an agency appeals to a supervisor who does understand the CFR and the U.S.C. (or eventually sues the agency in court).

Oddly, despite the informality of such manuals, the U.S. Supreme Court has occasionally cited them as authority when confronted with situations not precisely addressed by the U.S.C. or the CFR.[2]

Publication of administrative law

The rules and regulations are first promulgated or published in the Federal Register. Each is given a CFR citation, such as 42 CFR 260.11(a)(1), that can be cited immediately, without waiting for a page number from the physical copy. The aforementioned citation would be read, "title 42, part 260, section 11, paragraph (a)(1)."

NARA also keeps an online version of the CFR, the e-CFR, that is normally updated two days after changes to the regulations, that have been published in the Federal Register, become effective.

While new regulations are continually becoming effective, the printed volumes of the CFR are issued once each calendar year, on this schedule:

  • Titles 1–16 are updated on January 1
  • Titles 17–27 are updated on April 1
  • Titles 28–41 are updated on July 1
  • Titles 42–50 are updated on October 1

List of regulation titles

Code of Federal Regulations, seen at the Mid-Manhattan Library. Editions of Title 3, on the President, are kept on archive. Notice that for the first year of each new presidency, the volume is thicker.


  1. ^ 467 U.S. 837 (1984).
  2. ^ See, e.g., Wash. State Dept of Soc. & Health Servs. v. Guardianship Estate of Keffeler, 537 U.S. 371 (2003) (citing to Social Security Administration's Programs Operations Manual System).

External links

Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

Code of Federal Regulations
the United States Government
The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) is the codification of the general and permanent rules and regulations published in the Federal Register by the executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government of the United States. The CFR is published by the Office of the Federal Register, an agency of the National Archives and Records Administration.
  • Title 1 — General Provisions
  • Title 2 — Grants and Agreements
  • Title 3 — The President
  • Title 4 — Accounts
  • Title 5 — Administrative Personnel
  • Title 6 — Homeland Security
  • Title 7 — Agriculture
  • Title 8 — Aliens and Nationality
  • Title 9 — Animals and Animal Products
  • Title 10 — Energy
  • Title 11 — Federal Elections
  • Title 12 — Banks and Banking
  • Title 13 — Business Credit and Assistance
  • Title 14 — Aeronautics and Space
  • Title 15 — Commerce and Foreign Trade
  • Title 16 — Commercial Practices
  • Title 17 — Commodity and Securities Exchanges
  • Title 18 — Conservation of Power and Water Resources
  • Title 19 — Customs Duties
  • Title 20 — Employees' Benefits
  • Title 21 — Food and Drugs
  • Title 22 — Foreign Relations
  • Title 23 — Highways
  • Title 24 — Housing and Urban Development
  • Title 25 — Indians
  • Title 26 — Internal Revenue
  • Title 27 — Alcohol, Tobacco Products and Firearms
  • Title 28 — Judicial Administration
  • Title 29 — Labor
  • Title 30 — Mineral Resources
  • Title 31 — Money and Finance: Treasury
  • Title 32 — National Defense
  • Title 33 — Navigation and Navigable Waters
  • Title 34 — Education
  • Title 35 — Panama Canal
  • Title 36 — Parks, Forests, and Public Property
  • Title 37 — Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights
  • Title 38 — Pensions, Bonuses, and Veterans' Relief
  • Title 39 — Postal Service
  • Title 40 — Protection of Environment
  • Title 41 — Public Contracts and Property Management
  • Title 42 — Public health
  • Title 43 — Public Lands: Interior
  • Title 44 — Emergency Management and Assistance
  • Title 45 — Public Welfare
  • Title 46 — Shipping
  • Title 47 — Telecommunication
  • Title 48 — Federal Acquisition Regulations System
  • Title 49 — Transportation
  • Title 50 — Wildlife and Fisheries

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