If Only California Statutes had Names

I’ve run into the oddest problem as I add the California Codes to WebLaws.org. The Sections, the actual statutes themselves, are not given any kind of name as they are in other states. Here are the basic burglary statutes of Oregon and California:

Oregon: ORS 164.215, Burglary in the Second Degree.
California: Penal Code Section 459.

+1 for Oregon.

Oregon Burglary Statutes

These screenshots show one problem this creates. For starters, there is no reliable way to provide a good table of contents for a group of California Code sections.

Now, in the legislative business, these names are called leadlines, and they’re usually not part of the actual controlling law. But their usefulness should be obvious: leadlines help everyone write about, talk about, and research the law. And it turns out that these names are important enough that publishers like Westlaw and LexisNexis have created their own for their customers’ use.

California Burglary Statutes — would you have guessed?

From an economic perspective, California is not performing this part of the legislative process, delegating it instead to private companies. And so, the only people with access to this part of the code are those who pay for it. In other words, instead of the cost (of naming their statutes) being distributed across all tax payers, it’s paid by those acutely needing access to the law.

There’s an additional cost to this scheme that all Californians bear, however: inefficiencies resulting from a lack of standardized names. I mentioned that Westlaw and LexisNexis have leadlines for the code. They do differ, of course.

Caveat: I’m new to California law. Is there something I’m missing here? Let me know.

2 thoughts on “If Only California Statutes had Names

  1. Pingback: Creating Data Where There is None | The State Decoded

  2. Somewhat sad that the place which is so cutting-edge in some respects (web technology, for example) is so behind the times in others. California should be setting an example as a large and advanced state. Someone ought to start a movement to change this. I agree it is really frustrating. I’m not in California though.

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