Constitution Day is tomorrow, but it’s already off to a great start with the release of the Congressional Research Service’s new version of The Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation, better known as the Constitution Annotated. The Constitution Annotated allows you to “read about the Constitution in plain English…providing a comprehensive overview of Supreme Court decisions interpreting the United States Constitution.” The Constitution Annotated is a Senate document created by the Congressional Research Service that makes the Constitution accessible to all Americans, regardless of their background in law. In the past, the web version of this document, which is linked from Congress.gov, consisted of PDFs that could be challenging to search. With this release, the document is available in a more accessible and user-friendly HTML format that is convenient to search and browse.
You will find the link to the Constitution Annotated on the Congress.gov homepage.
At the top, you’ll notice that you can search the document. For example, I searched for the Establishment Clause, which is located in the First Amendment to the Constitution. I put my search terms in quotes, so that I could search for it as an exact phrase, rather than two separate words. You are then presented with a results screen where you can use the filter menu on the left-hand side of the screen to narrow down your results. For example, in my search for the Establishment Clause, I might want to narrow down my results to the First Amendment.
You can also choose to browse the document; just click on “Browse the Constitution Annotated” and you will be taken to a screen where you can select an article or amendment to the Constitution.
When you find a topic of interest, be sure to take a look at the Constitution Annotated’s footnotes, where you will find links to the full text of United States Supreme Court cases that have been cited as authority.
The Constitution Annotated also has some great bonus features that you’ll find at the bottom of the page, including discussions of featured issues in Constitutional Law, Library of Congress resources for researching the Constitution, as well as a Highlights and Resources section. The Highlights and Resources section includes two resources that we often use in our work at the reference desk, the Table of Supreme Court Decisions Overruled by Subsequent Decisions and the Table of Laws Held Unconstitutional in Whole or in Part by the Supreme Court.
We hope you celebrate Constitution Day by exploring the site and learn something new about the Constitution in the process. If you have any questions, please contact us through Ask A Librarian.