Thursday, February 11, 2016

Free Websites for Massachusetts Primary Law

Whether you are a new solo practitioner trying to save money, someone trying to represent themselves in court, or simply interested in the law there are a lot of places you can find Massachusetts law online for free.

Massachusetts General Court

The Massachusetts legislature’s website provides access to online versions of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the General Laws of Massachusetts (the current legal code), and the Acts and Resolves (session laws from 1997 to present).  The Constitution is one continuous webpage (use control-f to search).  The General Laws are browsable through a series of expanding menus and also have a simple keyword search function.  The Acts and Resolves are searchable by keyword, chapter, or year and are also browsable by year.

State Library of Massachusetts

The State Library of Massachusetts has a wealth of historical legal materials in it’s online archive. This collection includes over 280 thousand titles which have been digitized and are freely available for download.  This website includes a search function which can be limited by community.  The archival materials can be browsed in several ways.  The default organization is by communities examples of which include Acts and Resolves and General Court.  Communities are then subdivided into sub-communities and collections.  Communities are browsable through a system of expanding menus. Notable collections include, Act and Resolves (session laws) from 1692 to 2010 and General Law Compilations (several versions of the Massachusetts code from 1822 to 1932).  The collection can also be browsed by date, author, title, and subject.

Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries

This website has links to Massachusetts law organized by source and subject.  The subjects include an A to Z list and links to statutes by popular name.  Sources include links to collections of primary law.  Massachusetts General Laws are available through the Massachusetts General Court website. Judicial opinions are covered with complete coverage of cases from the Supreme Judicial Court and Appeals Court from 1915 to date.  Cases decided since 2001 are searchable through limited access to LexisNexis (one of the top commercial legal databases).  Cases decided since 1938 are also searchable through a free legal database called Massachusetts Cases.  The Code of Massachusetts Regulations is available and can be browsed by regulation number or by subject. The site also has an executive orders page which includes orders issued since 1941. Finally local Bylaws and Ordinances from most Massachusetts communities are available here, however the page authors suggest one contact the communities directly for this information.  This website also includes forms for common legal issues (including instructions on how to use the form) and a self-help center which can help non-lawyers to understand legal issues and processes.

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