Understanding the Basics of Law
Law is a set of rules enacted by social institutions, such as governments, that define and enforce the rights and obligations of people. It is a powerful force that shapes the world around us. There are many ways to think about law. The first is through the term “natural law” or “the law of nature,” which arose from ancient Greek philosophy. A second is through the notion of justice, which was introduced by Thomas Aquinas. Lastly, there is the concept of religion, which is often associated with the unchangeability of God’s word.
Legal systems are divided into civil and common law. Civil law systems use more direct judicial decisions to resolve disputes. However, in these legal systems, there is a lot of human elaboration that takes place to reach these decisions. In civil law systems, judges are only writing to decide one case, while in common law systems, judges are writing to decide many cases.
Both legal systems are made up of three branches: government, courts, and private organizations. Governments enact laws, which are either stipulations for a particular state or group of states, or decrees enacted by the executive. Courts review and enforce those laws, and private individuals can enter into legally binding contracts. Often, a contract is based on the promise of a particular party to do something.
A judge is a government official who has the authority to make a decision on a case. Lawyers are professionals who provide advice to the parties involved in the case. They are appointed to the court by the chief judge. The chief judge has primary responsibility for the administration of the court.
Legal systems are organized in a hierarchical fashion, with higher courts having the power to review lower courts. Depending on the court, the party seeking to appeal may have the right to petition the lower court to reconsider its decision.
There are also differences in the way legal reasoning and interpretation are done. For example, in the U.S., judges have the power to strike down laws that are found to be unconstitutional. Generally, they have the right to follow precedent, which is a previous decision by the same court. This will ordinarily govern the decision of a later similar case.
Common law legal systems, such as English, use the doctrine of precedent to bind courts. This means that decisions by a higher court will generally bind a lower court. Sometimes, parties challenge this doctrine.
The United States has a common law legal system. In this system, court decisions are explicitly acknowledged as “law” and court-made documents, such as statutes, are published in the U.S. code. These documents are updated periodically to reflect changes in the laws of the country.
Another type of legal system is called state-enforced law. State-enforced laws are imposed by a group legislature or a single legislator. Examples of this are immigration and immigration law, which outlines the rights of foreigners to live and work in a nation-state.