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Legal Research: Home

This guide is designed to help you with your legal systems research.

Legal Research

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Off-campus access to most of the library's databases is available. In order to use these resources from home, you will need to log in using your MyHill credentials - your username and password.

If you need assistance please contact the The Desk at 508-565-1313.

Legal Research

This guide is designed to help you with your research. The Reference Librarians are also available to assist you. You can either come by the Reference Desk on the 1st floor of the library or call 508-565-1203.

The American legal system consists of a vast, intertwining network of laws, judicial decisions, regulations, executive orders, treaties, discretionary rulings and constitutions and common law steeped in tradition. There are three basic sources for legal authority: Case Law, Statute Law, and Administrative Law.

Case Law:   In general there are trial courts and appellate courts. Trial courts are where parties appear, present testimony, determine questions of fact, and apply applicable laws. The losing party has the right to appeal to the appellate court. Appellate courts do not receive new testimony, or decide questions for fact; they can only decide questions of law. The Supreme Court of each state and the United States Supreme Court for the federal system is the last court of appeal.

Statutory Law: Statutory law refers to bills passed by the legislature, approved by the executive, and interpreted by the courts. Federal laws are published in Statutes at Large, while each state publishes its own set of statutes each with a unique title. In Massachusetts, state laws (session laws) are published in Acts and Resolves of Massachusetts.

Administrative Law: Administrative law consists of regulations and orders issued by the executive branch of government. Federal regulations are codified in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), after first being published in the Federal Register.

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