Post Content

Understanding the structure of our government is a key to being able to find the law. The United States Constitution sets out how the three branches of government are organized and work together at the federal level. The Massachusetts Constitution delineates the workings of three branches at the state level.
At the Federal level, the U.S. Congress (the legislative branch) passes Public Laws in numerical order in two year sessions. These session laws are then organized by subject and codified into the U.S. Code, available from www.thomas.gov. The many agencies of the executive branch promulgate regulations that are published in the Code of Federal Regulations. The United States district courts (the judicial branch) are the trial courts of the federal court system. The 94 U.S. judicial districts are organized into 12 regional circuits, each of which has a United States Court of Appeals. Massachusetts is in the First Circuit. The U.S.Supreme Court is the highest tribunal for all cases and controversies arising under the Constitution or the laws of the United States, and as such is the final arbiter of the law.
On the state level, Massachusetts legislative branch’s session laws are known as the Acts and Resolves. Our current codification is called the Massachusetts General Laws. Both are available at the General Court’s (a.k.a. Legislature’s) website. As with the federal material, the Commonwealth’s executive branch agencies promulgate regulations collectively known as the Code of Massachusetts Regulations.  The Massachusetts Court System consists of seven Trial Courts and two appellate courts (the Massachusetts Appeals Court and the Supreme Judicial Court). Appellate court decisions are considered precedential and they are published and available on the web.
At the local level, municipal bylaws and ordinances have the force of law, with their authority derived from the statutes (Mass. General Laws). They are indexed by city and town when available at the Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries website.

 

Knowing whether the law that you are looking for comes from the legislative, executive or judicial branch is a great help in being able to find it.

Written By:

Recent Posts

Real Estate Recording Fees to be Increased posted on Dec 10

Under Massachusetts General Laws chapter 44B section 8,  real property conveyance documents recorded at the Registry of Deeds are subject to a Community Preservation Act surcharge.  This law was amended by chapter 41 sections 29 and 30 of the Acts of 2019.  Effective December 31,   …Continue Reading Real Estate Recording Fees to be Increased

Portraits in Massachusetts Law: Lucy Stone posted on Nov 13

Portraits in Massachusetts Law: Lucy Stone

Portraits in Massachusetts Law is a regular feature of Massachusetts Law Updates. These pages provide links to biographical information abut people who have been particularly important in legal history in Massachusetts, as our government took shape in the cauldron of the American Revolution and grew and changed throughout   …Continue Reading Portraits in Massachusetts Law: Lucy Stone

Word(s) of the month – suffrage posted on Nov 1

Word(s) of the month - suffrage

Words of law is a regular feature of Massachusetts Law Updates, highlighting a particular word or phrase and its meaning in law. Today’s word is suffrage. suffrage (sәf-rji). (14c) 1. the right or privilege of casting a vote at a public election. – Also termed right to vote.   …Continue Reading Word(s) of the month – suffrage