Massachusetts Law Resources in the State Library

The State Library has an extensive collection of Massachusetts law resources, including statutes and legislative materials, administrative law and judicial reports.

Statutes and Legislative Materials

  • Acts and Resolves: Also known as the session laws, this publication includes enacted legislation during a particular year, arranged in chronological order.
    Library print holdings: 1692 to date
    Available online from 1692 to date
  • Massachusetts General Laws: Those session laws that are considered permanent in nature and applicable throughout the Commonwealth are arranged by topic into a codified version of the law. The official edition has been published by the Commonwealth every two years since 1984. Prior to that, new compilations were published periodically.  Private publishers also publish annotated editions of these laws, which provide additional references to opinions and other related materials.
    Library print holdings: All official editions and annotated editions published by Thomson Reuters and LexisNexis
    An unofficial version of the code is available online through the legislature’s website
    Old compilations (1932 and earlier) are also available online
  • House and Senate Journals: Official account of the daily sessions of the General Court (legislature).
    Library print holdings: House – 1715 to date; Senate – 1780 to date
    (many early years are in Manuscript form)
    Published journals have been digitized and are available in the State Library's digital repository: House – 1854 to present; Senate –  1868 to present.                                                Uncorrected proofs of journals are available online on the legislature’s website: House – 2001 to present; Senate – 1998 to present. 
  • Legislative Documents: Bound volumes of filed bills. Most of these documents are digitized and available in the State Library's digital repository.
    Library print holdings: 1780 to date
    Also available online on the legislature’s website from 2009 to date
  • Recordings of Formal Sessions and Hearings of the Massachusetts General Court: Audio and videotape of formal sessions of the House of Representatives starting in the 1980’s and a very selective number of legislative hearings.
    Library holdings: House of Representatives -  audio: November 1984 to November 1987; video: Nov. 1987 to present; Senate - video: 1993 to present
    An index to House and Senate sessions on videotape exists in Rooms 55 and 341. A log listing speakers and business conducted during House sessions exists in Special Collections. Recorded hearings are included in the library’s online catalog.
  • Subscription Databases: In addition to these sources, the library provides onsite access several online sources:
    Westlaw: provides access to statutes, administrative law and case law
    Instatrac: a comprehensive legislative bill tracking service, which is helpful with legislative history research from 1995 to date
    State House News Service: specialized reporting service that covers State House and legislative news

Administrative Law

  • Code of Massachusetts Regulations: Complete set of regulations promulgated by state agencies.
    Library print holdings: Up-to-date set of the CMR, as well as editions as they were published in 1977 and 1978 (check dates)
    Partially Available online
  • Massachusetts Register: Publishes new and amended regulations; notices of hearings and comment periods related to prospective or draft regulations; and a cumulative index of regulatory changes for the current year. The register also publishes notices of public interest, as well as opinions of the Attorney General and Executive Orders.
    Library print holdings: 1978 to date
    2007 to date available online
    Year-end cumulative tables from 1976 to current are available in the library and online.
  • Executive Orders: Rules or orders issued by the governor and has the status of a law. Read a short history of Massachusetts Executive Orders.
    Library print holdings: 1941 (no. 1) to 1997 (no. 401)
    Available online: 1941 (no. 1) to date
  • Administrative Agency Opinions: Certain executive branch agencies are granted quasi-judicial authority and may hear cases and issue rulings.
    Library print holdings: Refer to the library’s online catalog under the agency name
    Many agency opinions are available online through the Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries

Case Law

  • Massachusetts Reports: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decisions
    Library print holdings: All (1804 to date)
    Available online: 1804 to date (1804-1938 incomplete)
  • Massachusetts Appeals Court Reports: Massachusetts Appeals Court decisions
    Library print holdings: 1972 to date
    Available online: 1972 to date
    Records and briefs of both courts are available for public inspection at the Social Law Library, 1200 New Courthouse, Pemberton Square, Boston, MA 02108, Tel. (617) 523-0018.
  • Massachusetts Appellate Division Reports: Decisions from the Massachusetts District Court Appellate Divisions and the Boston Municipal Court
    Library print holdings: 1936 to date
    Available online: 2006-2007, 2009 to date
  • Massachusetts Law Reporter: Decisions from the Massachusetts Superior Courts
    Library print holdings: September 1993 to date.

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