Brief History of the Compilation and Publication of New Mexico Laws

The NMSA 1978 is the 10th compilation of the laws of New Mexico. It is also the compilation that has been in existence the longest.

Territorial laws

There were a number of territorial compilations of the laws of New Mexico. The first compilation was the Kearny Code of Laws of 1846. Except for acts of Congress, the Kearny Code was the basis of the entire territorial system in New Mexico until statehood. It was prepared by Colonel A.W. Doniphan and Private William P. Hall and submitted to the war department by Brigadier General S.W. Kearny by letter dated September 22, 1846. The Kearny Code of Laws is published with other territorial laws immediately after the Constitution of New Mexico in the NMSA 1978.

The first act of the legislature authorizing the compilation of the laws of New Mexico was adopted by the legislature on February 9, 1854. The "Revised Statutes of the Territory of New Mexico", was completed by Chief Justice James J. Deavenport in 1856.

The third compilation was prepared by a commission over a six year period and reported to the legislature in 1859. It was adopted by the legislature as the Revised Statutes and Laws of the Territory of New Mexico. See Tafoya v. Garcia, 1 N.M. 480 (1871) upholding the dismissal of a case that relied on an 1859-1860 law omitted from the 1865 compilation. This compilation was technically a "code" as it was enacted into law by the legislature.

An unauthorized compilation was prepared in 1880 by Chief Justice L. Bradford Prince a critic of the 1859 compilation.

Compiled Laws of New Mexico 1897.

The last territorial compilation was authorized in 1884 and published in 1897. It was prepared by three commissioners and certified by Albert B. Fall, solicitor general of the Territory of New Mexico. The complete Kearny Code was included in this compilation along with a number of other historical documents provided by the Honorable T. B. Catron. The Laws of 1897, page 80, Chapter XLIII, found that:

There has been no legal compilation of the laws of the Territory of New Mexico since the year 1884 and the available supply of the Compiled Laws of that year and the Session Laws of 1887 and 1889 have been entirely destroyed by fire and those of other sessions of the Legislature have become practically exhausted in the hands of the Territorial Secretary and Librarian, so that to procure copies of the laws of years is attended with great expense and trouble; . . .

The legislature authorized the purchase of 1,500 copies of the Compiled Laws of 1897. Copies that were not distributed for free were sold at a price fixed by the governor at not less than $7.50 nor more than $10.00 per volume. An appropriation of $16,000 was made by the legislature to finance the 1897 compilation.

Code of 1915

The New Mexico Statutes of 1915 began as a compilation after New Mexico became a State in 1912; however, a short time before its publication, the legislature changed it from a compilation of the laws to a code. It was enacted into law by the legislature June 11, 1915. For the final and repealing clause, see the Repealing and Saving Clause of the Codification which appears immediately after the last section of the codification. It repealed "all acts and parts of acts of a general and permanent nature, not contained in this codification". The NMSA 1978 used the Code of 1915 as the starting point in establishing the current, effective law of New Mexico in 1978. The W.H. Courtright Publishing Company of Denver published the 1915 code and the 1929 compilation. This is the only compilation enacted as a code since statehood.

1929 Compilation

The New Mexico Statutes of 1929 was a compilation authorized by Laws 1929, ch. 135, page 317. The legislature authorized the printing of 1250 volumes of the 1929 compilation. The first section of the law authorizing the 1929 compilation provided that "it shall be received in all courts of this state as prima facie evidence of the legislative enactments therein contained". The compiler, W.H. Courtright Publishing Company, relied on the editorial advice of Clarence J. Roberts, former Chief Justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court. The State purchased 1250 volumes of the 1929 statutes for $17,187.50 and sold them for $27.50 per volume. A tax of $5.00 upon each action filed in the district courts was levied until the $17,187.50 appropriation was reimbursed to the state treasury.

1941 Compilation

The 1941 compilation was prepared under a three member commission composed of the chief justice of the Supreme Court, president, the clerk of the Supreme Court, secretary and the attorney general. The commission purchased 1000 full sets for a sum not exceeding $37,500. The compilation was prepared by Bobbs-Merrill Company. The copyright was to be assigned to the State of New Mexico.

The 1941 Compilation was authorized by Laws 1941, ch. 191, which also created the 1941 compilation commission. The 1941 compilation was proofread by the Supreme Court Law Librarian Arie Poldevaart and checked by Santa Fe attorneys, A.K. Montgomery and M.W. Hamilton, and Attorney General Edward P. Chase. Arie Poldevaart later served as the librarian for the University of New Mexico School of Law.

1953 Compilation

The 1953 compilation was also prepared under the direction of the chief justice and clerk of the New Mexico Supreme Court and the attorney general. The Allen Smith Company of Indianapolis, Indiana prepared the 1953 compilation. The legislature appropriated $117,500 for 1000 sets. The legislature also set a price of $117.50 cash and $125.00 terms for sales to residents of the State.

New Mexico Statutes Annotated 1978

The New Mexico Compilation Commission entered into a contract with the Michie Company of Charlottesville, Virginia effective January 7, 1977 to compile, revise and annotate, print, bind and deliver the NMSA 1978 under the direction and supervision of the Secretary of the Compilation Commission and the Advisory Committee on the NMSA 1978 appointed by the New Mexico Supreme Court. This contract followed the appointment of Robert J. Werner, chairman, Seth D. Montgomery, the son of A.K. Montgomery who served as a 1941 compilation advisor, William K. Stratvert, President of the State Bar of New Mexico, John P. Blum, Supreme Court Law Librarian and Myron Fink, University of New Mexico School of Law librarian. The Advisory Committee on the NMSA 1978 was given the primary responsibility of preparing the NMSA 1978 and for continued oversight in its publication.

The Compilation Commission contracted with the Institute of Public Law at the University of New Mexico School of Law, to serve as staff for the Advisory Committee and Commission. The Michie Company was selected by the Advisory Committee and approved by the Commission as the publisher of the NMSA 1978.

The Legislature appropriated funds to permit a thorough review of all laws enacted since 1915 and the preparation of new tables using the source documents rather than prior compilations. Prior to ratification of the contract, it was agreed that the NMSA 1978 would be copyrighted by the Michie Company in the name of the State of New Mexico.

The decision to use the 1915 Code as the law of New Mexico in 1915 would not have been wholly consistent with Wells v. Dice, 33 N.M. 647, 275 Pac. 90 (1929). In Wells, the Supreme Court decided that since it could find no new enactments in the 1915 Code and since the code was referred to as the original source, it was to be interpreted as a compilation of laws and not as new law. According to Wells, the 1915 Code was to be interpreted "as has been our constant practice, with reference to the date and context of its origin and development". Wells did not cite the earlier opinion in Tafoya v. Garcia, 1 N.M. 480 (1871). The NMSA 1978 used the 1915 Code as the original enactment of New Mexico Law and the Session Laws and Enrolled and Engrossed bills for all amendments and new enactments after 1915 as the source of the permanent general laws of New Mexico.

Official Print Court Opinions

In 1982, the Compilation Commission became statutorily responsible for the publishing of court opinions in the New Mexico Reports.


In 1987 an integrated database of the NMSA 1978 was created making New Mexico the second State to have its laws converted to an integrated database. This led to the development and marketing of the first electronic versions of the NMSA 1978.

In 1990 a CD-ROM containing the NMSA 1978 and selected New Mexico Supreme Court opinions was published and was the first in the country containing a state's laws. It was originally known as "OptiLaw", however, in February, 1991 it was published as New Mexico Law on Disc™.

The February 1991 disc was dedicated to the memory of Clay Buchanan, former Director of the Legislative Council Service in recognition of his contribution to the publication of the NMSA 1978 and for providing the impetus for publishing the official version of the NMSA 1978 in electronic format using software that did not need to run on large mainframe computers. Andy Wyszkowski of the Michie Company implemented the Legislative Council Service Director's request by choosing Folio software which permitted NMSA 1978 to be accessed using only a personal computer. The Compilation Commission is grateful for Andy Wyzskowski's leadership and dedication in making the NMSA 1978 available in CD-ROM format.

Commission as Official Legal Publisher

Beginning with the 2004 supplement to the NMSA the Compilation Commission has served as the State's official legal publisher.

New Mexico One Source of Law®

As the State's official publisher, the products and legal content offered expanded rapidly. The XML integrated database was mostly completed prior to the publication of the 2004 update of the NMSA 1978. In 2005, the Compilation Commission published the country's first DVD of statutes and court opinions under the trade name New Mexico One Source of Law®. New Mexico One Source of Law® includes all annual updates of the NMSA 1978 from 1989 through the current year and the contents of each of the Session Laws since 1995. The XML integrated database of the New Mexico statutes and court rules and the DVD was developed and produced by Conway Greene Company of Cleveland, Ohio. By 2007, New Mexico One Source of Law DVD had more than five times the content of federal and state laws as was available in the Spring of 2004. An online version has been available to DVD subscribers since October 2006. Through the efforts of Conway Greene, in participation with the Compilation Commission, beginning in January 2009, the opinions are released online in tandem with the release by the Supreme Court, resulting in the most current case law available.

On July 1, 2006 the three member 1941 Compilation Commission consisting of the chief justice and clerk of the supreme court and the attorney general was expanded to include the state records administrator, the dean of the university of New Mexico school of law, the director of the legislative council service and the president of the state bar of New Mexico.

Official Digital Appellate Court Opinions

On March 1, 2012, by court order, the New Mexico Supreme Court, under the leadership of Chief Justice Charles W. Daniels and Chief Clerk and General Counsel Joey D. Moya, broke with 160 years of publishing tradition. The Court designated an authenticated PDF with digital signature as the official appellate court opinion published by the New Mexico Compilation Commission. This new official digital appellate court opinion and its print version would be known collectively as the New Mexico Appellate Reports. Simultaneously, all opinions dating back to the territorial supreme court of 1852 are being retrofitted with vendor-neutral citations and corresponding paragraph numbers. The entire body of case law will be updated with each release by the Court and provided free to the public, the media and commercial and other publishers on the Commission’s web site.


On May 1, 2012, the New Mexico Compilation Commission released the new official online legal research tool of the New Mexico courts and legislature called NMONESOURCE.COM. The Commission and New Mexico Supreme Court file and publish final reported opinions virtually in real time. New court rule amendments and unpublished decisions are updated daily as released from the Court. Access to 50-state case law, natural language searching, targeted search forms and automatic updating of saved searches are among the popular features.

Importantly, Supreme Court slip opinions, unpublished decisions and court rules are published to the Commission’s web site at the time of filing by the court or by court order in the case of court rule amendments. Court rules are red-lined on the Commission’s site for at-a-glance views of the changes. The publishing to the Commission’s site is immediately followed by an email announcement from the Chief Clerk of the Court to the bench and bar.