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Federal Legislative History: Hearings (Ref. # 3)

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Generally, follow Rule 13.3 in the 20th ed. of The Bluebook, and look for ways to use abbreviations found in the Tables. 

For example, say we want to cite to testimony from a hearing on Exotic Bird Species and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act given by David H. Pardoe, Board Member of the National Audubon Society about the need to exclude mute swans from the MBTA.  Testimony was taken Dec. 16, 2003, in the House Committee on Resources, Subcommittee on Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife, and Oceans.  Pardoe's statement is on pages 34-66.  The citation would be:

Exotic Bird Species and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Hearing on H.R. 4818 Before the Subcomm. on  Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife, and Oceans of the H. Comm. on Resources, 108th Cong. 34-66 (2003) (statement of David H. Pardoe, Bd. Member, Nat'l Audubon Soc'y).

About Committee Hearings

Committee Hearings

Flowchart reference number 3.

Published hearings are the official record of committee hearings proceedings. Hearings, which are usually open to the public, are held to enable committees to gather opinions and information to help Members make decisions regarding proposed legislation or to help them fulfill their oversight and investigation responsibilities.

Official hearings publications, which are printed by the Government Printing Office, usually include:

  • Written and oral statements of witnesses
  • Transcripts of the verbal question-and-answer session between the committee and witnesses
  • Reports, exhibits, and other materials submitted for the record by witnesses
  • Correspondence and other materials submitted by interested parties

Most hearings are published from six months to a year after the hearing is held, but some hearings are published following a gap of two or more years, and some are never published. The timing of the publication, as well as the decision on whether or not to publish, depends solely on the individual committees. Transcripts of hearings that are not published are deposited at the National Archives. Senate unpublished hearings can be released after 20 years and House unpublished hearings can be released after 30 years, but all hearings can be held 50 years or more for national security or privacy reasons.

In 1983 (98th Congress) the Senate adopted a numbering system for hearings that is still used today, but the House does not have a numbering system for hearings. Transcripts of hearings are occasionally issued as or included in House or Senate reports or documents, in which case they are numbered as a report or a document.

Testimony is usually arranged within the publication in the chronological order in which the witnesses appeared. Witnesses' written statements are sometimes located throughout the hearing following the spoken testimony transcript, and are sometimes located within the supplementary material at the end of the volume.


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