What Is Law?
Law is a set of rules that is enforceable through governmental institutions. These rules can be grouped into three categories: federal, state, and common law. The legal system of the United States reflects its common law roots, but has added many innovations over the years.
Federal law is defined by the Constitution. Its outlines the boundaries of the federal government and prescribes various civil liberties. In addition, the Constitution provides the foundation for the creation of law enforcement agencies. Traditionally, federal law focused on money, tariffs, patents, and foreign relations. Today, federal statutes cover a wide variety of situations. Some of these include international, business, criminal, and immigration laws.
State law can be defined as laws enforced by a single legislator or by a group of legislators. They are usually made through decrees or legislation. However, some legislatures create laws in common law jurisdictions, explicitly acknowledging that they are “law.”
Common law legal systems include a doctrine of precedent. This means that a court decision in a particular case is considered precedent and thereby binds subsequent cases. An example of this is the Chevron doctrine. If a statute is found to be unconstitutional, a new one can be passed.
Common law legal systems also have the notion of analogy, where a precedent from a different legal system is used as a reference to a legal issue. This is a feature of the legal system of England, where the common law was in force during the American Revolutionary War.
The common law system is less complex than the law of the United States. Rather than requiring detailed judicial decisions, it requires human elaboration. Many of the innovations that have helped shape the laws of the United States also originated in common law systems.
Common law legal systems also have a theory of stare decisis, which says that a court decision in a certain case will bind future decisions. Judicial interpretations of a statute are also under the legal force of this principle.
There are also several types of religious law. Several religious traditions have their own unique legal theories. Islamic Sharia is based on a belief system, while Jewish Halakha is based on a religion. Religious law often implies that God’s word is inviolable.
Common legal issues include family and child rights, debt, housing problems, and immigration. Other areas of law that are gaining importance are healthcare and LGBTQ rights.
For more information on the law, visit a government website. You can also check out the Shepard’s Citations, a service provided by Lexis/Nexis.
As law changes rapidly, it is important to keep up-to-date on the latest developments. The easiest way to do this is by using online resources. A good place to start is with a website like West’s KeyCite. Alternatively, you can find more legal resources at a law library or law school.
Legal questions can come from a wide range of sources, including unexpected illness, a planned event, or problems at work. When in doubt, seek out a lawyer or a legal advisor.