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Massachusetts Agencies

Statutory History Case and Statute Law and Case Law History

History, Statutory, and Case Law

Let me tell you the "Professor Story" . . .

The Professor came into Equity 1.1 when I attended law school and said, "The most important case in equity concerning the doctrine of %&*#@$ is Jones v. Smith. Read it!"

We all went home and read Jones v. Smith.

The next day we were all ready to answer any question about Jones v. Smith, subject only to our throbbing headaches. The Professor, however, didn't ask for a critique on the case, but rather said, "A lower court in the same jurisdiction where Jones v. Smith was decided also rendered a decision concerning the doctrine of %&*#@$. That lower court case is Johnson v. Johnson. Read it, too!"

We went home and read Johnson v. Johnson.

The next day the Professor asked, "I told you that Jones v. Smith was the most important case on the doctrine of %&*#@$. It was a landmark case. Why, then, did the lower court in the case of Johnson v. Johnson, which sits in the same jurisdiction, fail to cite it for authority? Well . . . . . . . .??"

Why do you think that the court in Johnson v. Johnson failed to cite Jones v. Smith?

The reason the court in Johnson v. Johnson failed to cite the landmark case of Jones v. Smith for authority was that Jones v. Smith was decided afterJohnson v. Johnson! The Professor chastised us for not noting the dates on which the respective court decisions were rendered.

Now, what does that have to do with the conveyancing? The point, of course, is that the law is always changing. What you see in the books today may not have been the law of yesterday . . . the law that may govern the issue in your abstract. If you fail to be aware of the law in effect at any particular time, the Professor may say to you (as was said to me), "See, you're not paying attention to the effective dates of statutes!"