Using Print Resources to Research the New Hampshire Statutes


Locating applicable statutes is one of the most important jobs in researching state or federal legal issues. Although occasionally a researcher finds an issue to which no statutes apply, usually one or more statutes relate to the problem in some way. Even when a researcher suspects an issues has no statutory basis, the researcher must still check to verify that. Only after a thorough check of the statutes can the researcher be comfortable that the applicable law is completely contained in the common law for the jurisdiction. Once the researcher knows the statutory framework of the law applicable to a particular research problem, the researcher can, from that point, more easily identify applicable cases and perhaps administrative regulations or other authorities which might also apply to the problem. Because the statutory framework provides the foundation and direction for much of the rest of the research task, the researcher should locate the applicable statutes early in the research process.

Traditionally when a researcher wishes to locate a statute in New Hampshire (or any other jurisdiction), the researcher consults either the general index of the statutory compilation when doing research in print materials, or does a search in either WESTLAW or LEXIS in the appropriate database when doing electronic research. These are excellent methods of locating a statute. However, there are other very effective but not so frequently considered methods of locating relevant New Hampshire statutes. For print research, these other methods include locating statutes through a broad topical approach, through defined words contained in the statute, through the statute's popular name, through a check of relevant uniform laws, through a relevant case or case reporter, through an administrative regulation, and through a wide variety of secondary authorities which may have cited to a New Hampshire statute in an interpretive discussion. For electronic research these methods include using a natural language search on WESTLAW or a free style search on LEXIS; doing a "terms and connectors" search on either system; searching the statutes on Webster, accessible through the New Hampshire state home page on the Internet; searching LOIS, an electronic service currently available in either a CD or an Internet format; or searching on the NH Law on Disc from LEXIS Law or the West New Hampshire Statutes CD products. Having a choice of all of these methods enhances the chances of locating relevant statutes and helps alleviate the frustration experienced when a first attempt does not produce the anticipated easy entry into the code.

This article gives a brief general discussion of the publication and content of the current New Hampshire statutes, and then discusses researching and updating using the print materials.1 It also provides some historical background on their publication, provides suggestions for locating interpretive materials, and discusses how these tools fit in the overall research process. This information should benefit the more experienced researcher as well as providing an introduction for the novice researcher.

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New Hampshire Bar Journal

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