Primary Sources

Statutes are the laws passed by the legislative branch. Those that are printed in the exact format as they were passed are called Public Laws. These are sometimes also referred to as Acts, or Session Laws. At the federal level, the public laws are called the Statutes at Large. To make it easier to determine the law on a particular topic, each public law is broken up into the various subjects affected, and the new rules are placed in the appropriate sections of the federal or state code. Codes are made up of titles or chapters, each which deals with a different subject area, such as criminal law. The official federal code is called the United States Code. The following table identifies the official collections of sessions laws for each New England state, along with the corresponding Codes.

State Session Laws Code
Connecticut Connecticut Public & Special Acts General Statutes of Connecticut
Maine Laws of the State of Maine West’s Maine Statutes
Massachusetts Acts and Resolves of Massachusetts General Laws of Massachusetts
New Hampshire Laws of the State of New Hampshire New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated
Rhode Island Public Laws of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations General Laws of Rhode Island
Vermont Acts and Resolves of Vermont Vermont Statutes Annotated

(also referred to as opinions) are decisions rendered by courts. Cases issued by appellate courts are binding (must be followed) by lower courts within the same jurisdiction. For example, decisions by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts are binding on the lower courts in Massachusetts, but those same decisions are not the law in Connecticut. However, if the Connecticut courts have not considered the particular legal issue, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court opinion could be useful persuasive authority.

Cases are published in reporters. Some states have official state reporters where they publish their cases (i.e., the Connecticut Reports), but there are also unofficial regional reporters that publish cases from multiple states. The Atlantic Reporter publishes cases from Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont, and the North Eastern Reporter publishes cases from Massachusetts. Only selected cases are reported. If you want to cite an unpublished opinion, make sure it is allowed by checking the court rules of the court you’re submitting to.

Regulations are the rules created by executive agencies. Proposed rules, notices of rulemaking, and final rules are published chronologically in a register. Like statutes, rules are then codified by subject. Federal agencies initially publish rules in the Federal Register, and they are then organized in the Code of Federal Regulations. The following table provides the titles of the administrative registers and codes for the New England states:

State Register Code
Connecticut Connecticut Law Journal Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies
Maine Maine Government Register Code of Maine Rules
Massachusetts Massachusetts Register Code of Massachusetts Regulations
New Hampshire New Hampshire Rulemaking Register New Hampshire Code of Administrative Rules Annotated
Rhode Island Rhode Island Government Register Code of Rhode Island Rules
Vermont Vermont Government Register Code of Vermont Rules