Best sources of Colorado law for a non-lawyer

Posted by: Dec 12, 2014By Brian Stutheit

There are in essence two sources for Colorado law.  Common law and statutory law.

Common law, also known as case law or precedent, is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals.  The body of precedents is called “common law” and it binds future decisions. In common law the court looks to past decisions of relevant courts. If a similar dispute has been resolved in the past, the court is bound to follow the reasoning used in the prior decision (this principle is known as stare decisis – latin for “to stand by things decided.“)  The best place to get an overview of Colorado State common law is in the Colorado Jury Instructions for Civil Trials.  Jury instruction books may be purchased through the Colorado Bar Association and legal publishers.  You need not be an attorney to buy the book.  Colorado also has Model Jury Instructions for Criminal Trials.  The jury instructions are good summaries of the law on a given topic, written by committees of lawyers and judges and intended to be impartial guidelines as to the law for juries to follow.  The Jury Instructions for Civil Trials contain summaries on such things as negligence, breach of contract, personal injury, motor vehicle accidents, premises liability, fraud, defamation, will disputes and damages.

Statutory law includes statutes enacted by the Colorado General Assembly, and rules and regulations passed by State agencies created by the General Assembly.  Agencies are created by the General Assembly and must have authority in statute to enact their regulations.  To read the statutes, I go to http://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/colorado/.  If a statute is cited by a lawyer, he typically writes something like,” C.R.S. § 12-2-101″.  The § symbol stands for “section.”  The place where I go to read statutes also contains case law interpreting or applying the statutes.  Lawyers call this the statute’s annotations.  One reading the statutes must be careful to note their effective date.  Most statutes do not apply to circumstances arising before the statute passed.

Colorado agency rules and regulations are kept in one place, called the Code of Colorado Regulations.  The Colorado Secretary of State maintains the official collection of regulations.  See http://www.sos.state.co.us/CCR/Welcome.do.  State agencies have links to their rules and regulations on their own websites.

A legal researcher should be aware that there are also municipal and county codes and ordinances.  Federal statutory law is kept in volumes known as the United States Code, or U.S.C.