Massachusetts residents are subject to Massachusetts state and U.S. federal laws. Federal laws apply in Massachusetts as they do across all 50 states. In addition to the U.S. Constitution, which is the supreme law of the U.S., federal laws include statutes that are periodically codified in the U.S. Code. Federal laws also include decisions by courts that interpret federal laws. Finally, federal laws include regulations issued by federal administrative agencies to implement federal laws. You can explore federal laws and related resources by visiting the federal law section of the Justia site.
The state of Massachusetts also has its own state laws. Massachusetts state laws include the Massachusetts Constitution, laws passed by the Massachusetts legislature and periodically codified in the Massachusetts General Laws, and decisions by courts that interpret Massachusetts laws.
The Massachusetts Constitution is the oldest state constitution in the U.S., having taken effect in 1780 during the American Revolution. Its language echoes the Enlightenment era concept of a social compact that balances individual rights against the greater good of society. It also foreshadows the language of the U.S. Constitution, which took effect nine years later. Article XLVIII provides the process of amending the Massachusetts Constitution. Any amendments may occur only through indirect initiatives. This means that citizens propose an amendment, which will be submitted to the state legislature if the petition meets the threshold requirements. The amendment is placed on a ballot if the legislature approves it.
The Massachusetts General Laws contain the laws passed by the Massachusetts legislature. These laws and the provisions of the Massachusetts Constitution are often interpreted by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and the Massachusetts Appeals Court. The federal Massachusetts District Court also issues decisions that may affect Massachusetts residents. The First Circuit Court of Appeals holds the authority to review decisions by the Massachusetts District Court. Sometimes the U.S. Supreme Court may review a case that has been appealed from the First Circuit or from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.