Customs Law (U.S.) Research Guide
This guide is intended as a starting point for research in U.S. customs law.
This Guide is intended as a starting point for research in customs law at Georgetown Law Library. It includes both primary and secondary materials, in both print and electronic formats.
a. United States Code
Most customs statutes are codified in title 19 of the U.S. Code, which is available from many sources:
- Print versions of official and annotated codes: KF.A7433 2006
- Lexis: Legal > Area of Law-By Topic > International Trade > Statutes & Legislative Materials > USCS - Trade, Titles 15, 18, 19, 50
- Westlaw: FINT-USCA
- Free version from the Legal Information Institute (Cornell University Law School)
- Free version from the Office of the Law Revision Counsel
b. Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States
- Print edition: KF6656.599 .U55
- Electronic version: KF6656.599 .U55Electronic
- The ITC also maintains a searchable database version of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule
c. Proposed Legislation
- Microfiche: All Senate and House bills are available:
- Lexis: Legal > Federal legal > U.S.- Legislative Histories & Materials > Congressional Full Text Bills -Current Congress
- Westlaw: CONG-BILLTXT (current Congress only)
- Library of Congress offers excellent services for tracking current legislation. thomas.loc.gov
2. Administrative Materials
a. Code of Federal Regulations
Most Customs regulations are codified in title 19 of the CFR. Note however that other agencies also regulate imports, depending on the product. Thus, for automobiles, the Environmental Protection Agency is involved; for wine, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Their regulations may be contained in other titles of the CFR. There are multiple formats of the CFR:
- Print: KF70 .A3
- Lexis: Legal > Area of Law > By Topic; International Trade > Administrative Materials & Regulations > CFR International Trade Titles 15 & 19
- Westlaw: FIND-CFR
- Official version from the Government Printing Office (PDF is official): http://www.gpoaccess.gov/cfr
- Unofficial, but more current version, from the GPO:
b. Customs and Border Protection Decisions
Customs and Border Protection also issues documents known as CBP Decisions (formerly known as Treasury Decisions, which should not to be confused with the Treasury Decisions issued by the Internal Revenue Service). CBP Decisions are varied; they include notices of CBP policy, CBP rulings, court decisions, and changes to CBP customs regulations. They are published in several sources:
- Print versions:
- Lexis: Legal > Area of Law - By Topic > International Trade > Find Statutes, Regulations & Administrative Materials > USCBP
- Westlaw: FINT-CUSTB
- CBP Decisions are available in the Customs Bulletin from the US Bureau of Customs and Border Protection
Click on "legal," then on "customs bulletins and decisions." The site provides a crude Bulletin search engine, but it is better to know the date of the CBP Decision or the volume and issue number of the bulletin you need. Coverage begins with Jan. 1, 2002.
c. Customs and Border Protection Rulings
Customs and Border Protection Rulings interpret and apply the law to a specific set of facts. Rulings that create a "uniform and established practice" are designated as CBP Decisions and are published in the Customs Bulletin and Decisions (see above). Most CBP rulings are not so published, but may still be useful as persuasive precedent in a similar situation in the future.
Rulings are issued by the Customs and Border Protection staff in Washington and New York. The New York rulings are limited to questions of classification. Headquarters rulings cover all topics.
Rulings are available in many sources:
- Lexis: Legal > Area of Law - By Topic > International Trade > Administrative Materials & Regulations > Agency Decisions > U.S. Customs & Border Protection Bulletin - Decisions (1962-)
- Westlaw: FINT-RUL (1988-)
- Customs Rulings Online Search System (1989 - ) (from the US Bureau of Customs and Border Protection)
d. Federal Register (FR)
- FDsys: 1994 - present
- HeinOnline: 1936 onward
- Microfiche: KF70 .A2 Micro
- Lexis: Legal > Area of Law > By Topic > International Trade > Administrative Materials & Regulations > Federal Register - International Trade and Customs Notices.
- Westlaw: FR
3. Judicial Decisions
a. Customs cases are brought in the Court of International Trade (formerly the Customs Court).
Appeal is to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and from there to the Supreme Court. The print reporters for the Court of Appeals (Federal Reporter) and the Supreme Court are in the Library Reading Room and on the 4th floor. In addition, there are Lexis and Westlaw databases that combine all Federal cases on international trade:
- Lexis: Legal > Area of Law - By Topic > International Trade > Interpreting U.S. Law > Fed Cts, Ct Int'l Trade, & Customs, Ct Int'l Trade Cases
- Westlaw: FINT-CS
b. Opinions of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
- Lexis: Legal, Cases > U.S., All Courts > By Circuit, Federal Circuit > U.S. Court of Appeals Cases
- Westlaw: CTAF
- Free cases from the Federal Circuit (August 2003 to present)
This site does not offer full text searching, so you need to know the parties names or docket number and date of the opinion.
c. Opinions of the Court of International Trade
- United States Court of International Trade Reports (1980-present) , KF6655 .A2 U54
- Lexis: Legal > Area of Law - By Topic > International Trade > Cases > Interpreting U.S. Law > US Court of International Trade Cases
- FINT-CIT: Westlaw
- The Court's opinions since 1999 are available from its website (http://www.cit.uscourts.gov/). They can only be browsed, not searched, so you need to know the parties names or docket number and date.
d. Opinions of the Customs Court (predecessor to the current Court of International Trade)
- United States Customs Court Reports(1938-1980) KF6655 .A2 U54
- Lexis: Legal > Area of Law - By Topic > International Trade > Cases > Interpreting U.S. Law > US Customs Court Cases
- Westlaw: FINT-CIT
4. Treaties and International Agreements
If you are doing extensive research in treaties and international law, consult our international law librarians. They have prepared a comprehensive Guide to Researching International Trade Law.
- Corporate Counsels Guide to Importting under the U.S. Customs Laws: KF6656.5 .C6 1992
- Ruth F. Sturm, Customs Law and Administration: KF6694 .S8 1982
- Michael J. Horton, Import and Customs Law Handbook: KF6694 .H67 1992
As you can see, the call numbers for customs law are around KF6690 of the Library. Browsing the shelves there may also help you find relevant secondary sources. Further, you can do a subject search in the library catalog. Possible subject headings to use would include:
- Customs Administration
2. Looseleaf Service
- BNA International Trade Reporter KF6655 .A2 I58
Provides primary law, including regulations and customs rulings, with commentary and extensive indexing.
Portions of it are also available on the (for Georgetown students, faculty, and staff only). (If you are not on the Law Center campus, you will be asked to sign in with your name and GoCard number.)
3. Law Journal Articles
To find articles on customs law, use the major legal indexes: Legal Periodicals and Books, LegalTrac, or Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals. Links to these and other databases are available from the library's page on journal indexes.
There are a number of law journals in the library dealing with international trade. To find them, you can do a keyword search in our catalog for the words "international and trade," limited to the location "Journals".
- Dictionary of International Trade HF1373 .R67 1994
- Dictionary of International Trade Terms K3943.A51 D52 1994
3. Other Online Sources
a. Portals for international trade research on the Web
- FindLaw: http://www.findlaw.com/01topics/25interntrade/index.html
- Hieros Gamos: http://www.hg.org/trade.html
b. U.S. Government
- U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection
- U.S. International Trade Commission
- Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
- International Trade Administration, Dept. of Commerce
- Court of International Trade
- Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
c. International Organizations
- Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development
- World Customs Organization
- World Trade Organization
- North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
- Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
- European Union
Revised 4/11/13 (TV)
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