Suppose you are a tax, legal, regulatory or healthcare professional representing a client in the United States. You want to help your client understand the full extent of fedeal regulatory activity. Inevitably, your research will involve the Code of Federal Regulations (“CFR”) and the Federal Register (“FR”). I already have posted about the added value of Federal Register 2.0 in this context. But now I want to add some thoughts about the e-CFR.
I am impressed with the e-CFR, the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. It expertly applies the principles of digital publishing to a traditional print publication in a way that reconciles chronological and topical publishing. It’s a model for commercial publishers of the CFR and FR to follow. It’s an example of efficient use of taxpayers’ dollars to enhance access to government information. I applaud the work of all involved. Today the e-CFR is “maintained as an unofficial editorial compilation until all remaining technical and performance issues are resolved.” I look forward to the day when the Administrative Committee of the Federal Register grants the e-CFR official legal status. Until that time, the official version of the CFR remains the one available online at GPO Access, which still has to be updated with the List of Sections Affected and the chronologically published official version of the Federal Register, a time-consuming, potentially error-prone process.
There are very concrete examples of the value that the e-CFR can provide. Law firms in the United States continue to charge clients by the hour. Law librarians, associates and paralegals would have to charge an hourly rate to update the CFR using the monthly List of Sections affected. Any client can be affected by hundreds of sections in the CFR. Those hours can add up to an expensive bill. By contrast, with the e-CFR, updating takes seconds. Professionals’ time that in the past was spent on tracing updates can now be devoted to analysis. Businesses that explain and comment on the CFR, particularly the interrelationships between a CFR section and interpretations by the courts and administrative agencies of that section, can more quickly and efficiently do their work. Again, time that in the past was spent updating the CFR can be devoted to actually writing the commentary — or creating the software code that carries out the intent of a regulation. Let us all hope that the Administrative Committee of the Federal Register will quickly authorize the National Archives and Record Administration’s Office of the Federal Register and the Government Printing Office to grant the e-CFR official status. We will all benefit.