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Law: QuickStart Guide

This guide is intended to serve as a starting point for finding legal information and is intended for public library users and librarians.

What's New or Timely

Reserve a museum pass!

Bradford's Manuscript "Of Plimouth Plantation"

at the Massachusetts State Library.  The Chronology begins in 1630:

  Bradford begins writing “Of Plimoth Plantation,” a detailed history of the founding of Plymouth Colony and the lives of the colonists from 1621 to 1647. Bradford writes his last notes in the volume in 1650. 

Bradford's Manuscript "Of Plimoth Plantation" | Mass.gov

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Thanksgiving Resolutions

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Congress Establishes Thanksgiving

On September 28, 1789, just before leaving for recess, the first Federal Congress passed a resolution asking that the President of the United States recommend to the nation a day of thanksgiving. A few days later, President George Washington issued a proclamation naming Thursday, November 26, 1789 as a "Day of Publick Thanksgivin" - the first time Thanksgiving was celebrated under the new Constitution. Subsequent presidents issued Thanksgiving Proclamations, but the dates and even months of the celebrations varied. It wasn't until President Abraham Lincoln's 1863 Proclamation that Thanksgiving was regularly commemorated each year on the last Thursday of November.

In 1939, however, the last Thursday in November fell on the last day of the month. Concerned that the shortened Christmas shopping season might dampen the economic recovery, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a Presidential Proclamation moving Thanksgiving to the second to last Thursday of November. As a result of the proclamation, 32 states issued similar proclamations while 16 states refused to accept the change and proclaimed Thanksgiving to be the last Thursday in November. For two years two days were celebrated as Thanksgiving - the President and part of the nation celebrated it on the second to last Thursday in November, while the rest of the country celebrated it the following week.

To end the confusion, Congress decided to set a fixed-date for the holiday. On October 6, 1941, the House passed a joint resolution declaring the last Thursday in November to be the legal Thanksgiving Day. The Senate, however, amended the resolution establishing the holiday as the fourth Thursday, which would take into account those years when November has five Thursdays. The House agreed to the amendment, and President Roosevelt signed the resolution on December 26, 1941, thus establishing the fourth Thursday in November as the Federal Thanksgiving Day holiday.

CDC Guidelines for Thanksgiving

Massachusetts Travel Form

What Happens After the Voting Ends? Steps (Plus a Map) to Complete an Election

City of Newton Unofficial Results 

Massachusetts Statewide Office Elections Schedule, 2020-2028.  Get a head start!  Chart showing which years Massachusetts and national election cycles fall.

United States Senate Elections, 2020

About the Electoral College The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL)  and a fun look at the process from The National Geographic Society's History & Culture / Explainer

HELP WITH LEGAL ISSUES

 

DialALawyer

Massachusetts Bar Association's Dial-A-Lawyer

Call (617) 338-0610 between 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Dial-A-Lawyer is monthly on the first Wednesday

2020: November 4 ; December 2

2021:  January 6 ; February 3 ; March 3

Massachusetts Law About COVID-19 from the Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries

MassLegalHelp.org for  help with Massachusetts legal issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic

Massachusetts Court System.  Emergency Guidance regarding Virtual Court Hearings

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Update

Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC): MLAC Statement on Confirmation of Kimberly Budd as SJC Chief Justice

Need Legal Help?  Try MLAC's List of Legal Resources During the Pandemic  Quick links for legal help during the pandemic.

New! Trial Court Help Line The Help Line will be staffed from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.  Call 833-91COURT (912-6878)

If you need to hire a lawyer:

  1. Get an instant online referral here
  2. Call us to speak to a trained LRS representative*
  3. (Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m. - 4:45 p.m.) at (617) 654-0400 or (866) 627-7577

Mass Legal Services

Massachusetts Legal Resource Finder

The Legal Resource Finder search results will give you contact information for legal aid programs, nonprofits, government agencies and court programs that may be able to help you with your legal issue for free or at a low cost. It will also give you links to legal information and self-help materials.  Click a tab for English, Portuguese (Português), or Spanish (Español)

 

Massachusetts: Virtual Court Services court users can receive face-to-face virtual assistance from court staff while remaining in the safety of their own homes.  Help with Housing, Land, Middlesex  Juvenile, Probate & Family Courts and much more.

Expiration of Moratorium on Evictions & Foreclosures.  Helpful links for renters, homeowners, & landlords.

AALL Logo

American Association of Law Libraries.  Public Library Toolkit. Beginning with a section on general legal research, scroll down for STATE-SPECIFIC PUBLIC LIBRARY TOOLKITS.  Click on the state you need, example: Massachusetts

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If you would like to use Ask a Law Librarian a question, you may chat, send an email, or request a document.

Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries Document Delivery Service 

Locations and Contact Information for Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries

Social Law Library

New! Ask  your Massachusetts public librarian to search Social Law Library databases

Massachusetts Public Libraries: LIBRARIANS LOGIN ONLY.

 

MASSterList - your go-to source for Massachusetts political news and commentary. Every day.

MASSterList.  News stories from Beacon Hill.  ALSO: Job Seekers: On Mondays, check the Job Board Listings!

Law Guide: How to Use

Intended for the public library user and non-law librarian, Law Guide  is a legal resources self- help center providing authoritative and accessible web links.

Teach yourself and teach others. Learn basic legal terms, how to read a citation, review your civics education, and continue to proceed through your search for legal information.  Left Frame: Legal Literacy ; Legal Research Help ; Legal Topics

COURT.  If going to court, two helpful manuals have been published online through the Massachusetts Court System. 

STARTING POINT: Be sure to use the Courts Self-Help web pages.  

The first manual, released in June 2010, is entitled Serving the Self-Represented Litigant: a guide by and for the Massachusetts Court Staff.  A second guide, Representing Yourself in a Civil Case: Things to Consider When Going to Court.  Together they are excellent preparation when faced with the prospect of going to court.

Use the Legal Forms tab if you need additional resources for legal forms.

Trends reported by the National Center for State Courts and the Self Represented Litigation Network show an increase in persons with legal issues representing themselves, that is, going pro se, or cutting costs using limited representation by attorneys, and mediation over having a court determine the outcome. The Access to Justice Initiative is a growing movement, official in over thirty states, including Massachusetts.

1st Base

Lawyers and Legal Help page offers a starting point to finding the assistance you need for finding legal information and a resolution to your situation.

Legal Literacy provides instruction to be used by the public and nonlaw librarians to grasp the basics of looking for legal information.

Use Legal Research Help to find a legal definition, learn to read a legal citation, and find basic websites and books about legal research. 

 

2nd Base

Focus your question by subject area of law

Look through the Legal Topics tab for Massachusetts subjects providing relevant legal citations and links to general laws, regulations, cases and forms. There is also extensive information and links for Federal topics.  Further forms may be found under the Forms tab.

Try to evaluate the governmental authority to get around the bases further. 

For a local City of Newton ordinance, form or permit application, Newton residents see Newton Resources; otherwise residents of other locales consult Massachusetts Cities and Towns for Bylaws and Ordinances, or Laws of Other States and Locales. 

Are you searching for a bill, pending legislation, a session law, an Act & Resolve, or a codified general law?  Consult the Massachusetts General Laws tab.  Have you been given a legal citation for a regulation?  Click on Massachusetts Code of Regulations (CMR).

Going to court and need a form?  Click on Legal Forms and Massachusetts Courts blue tabs to get started.  Find a Court Locator from the Massachusetts Court System and the United States Courts court locator.  Look for forms specific to the court where you will file the form. 

Tracking court decisions or legislation in the news?  See Legal News, Laws of Other States, or Federal Primary Law, or the appropriate Massachusetts tab.   

Cases might have been decided in Massachusetts, but what jurisdiction and what departments?: state or federal?  District Court, Superior Court, Bankruptcy Court, Land Court, Housing Court, Probate and Family Court?  Was the decision appealed?  Did it move on to the Supreme Judicial Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts?  to the United States Supreme Court?  To the highest court in another state? See Legal News, Massachusetts Courts, Laws of Other States, Federal Primary Law.

3rd Base

You may now have gathered enough background information to proceed to a city department, have a hearing, consult with an attorney, mediate a problem or go to court.   Find rules of court and related forms under the Massachusetts Court or Federal Primary Law tabs.  Hopefully a resolution will be achieved, and you can return to Home Plate.   The next time you have a legal question, begin again from Home Plate at the Newton Free Library's Legal Information Self Help Center LibGuide.