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What is a private law?

Private Law Congress Private Law Number
Pvt.L. 85 1

Private laws result from the passage of private bills or joint resolutions providing relief or related actions with limited applicability, affecting, for example, a specific individual, a specific corporation or other organization, or a specified locality in a specified circumstance.

For example, private laws may provide relief to individuals in areas such as immigration, taxation, or settlement of claims against the Government involving veteran's benefits or military decorations.


  • Prior to the 57th Congress (1901), private laws were numbered in a sequential list that included both public and private laws, but since that time they have been numbered in separate sequences.
  • Since the 85th Congress (1957), the private law numbering system has included the sequentially assigned private law number prefixed with the number of the Congress in which the law was enacted (e.g., P.L. 85-1).

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