Law is a system of rules that governs the conduct of people and relationships. It deals with such things as contracts, criminal justice, social justice and international relations.
A law may be a written or unwritten rule that has been formulated and enforced by the government. Laws have many purposes, but they all serve to promote the order of society.
The main goal of law is to protect individual rights and ensure a peaceful and safe society. This can be done by establishing rules that people must follow, and by using the courts to resolve disputes.
Having an organized legal system makes it easier for people to know what their rights are and how to exercise them. It also makes it easier for the police and public officials to do their jobs.
There are three main categories of laws: civil law, common law and criminal law. Each of these systems has its own distinctive features and aims.
In common law systems, courts decide cases according to rules set out in statutes or regulations made by the legislative branch. These rules are called “laws.” In these systems, decisions by lower courts bind future cases in the same court.
This is called the doctrine of precedent (Latin for “to stand by”), and it assures that similar cases reach the same results.
It is the most commonly used legal system in the world.
Civil law systems are based on a logical taxonomy of rules, with an emphasis on cooperation and order. In addition to the codification of laws in a book or code, the system also has certain characteristics that allow it to be adaptable over time.
The system’s major features include:
An organizational structure that favors cooperation, order and predictability; a logical and dynamic taxonomy developed from Roman law; a code of laws that avoids excessive detail; and general clauses in the codes that permit adaptation to change.
A primarily legislative system, but with room for the judiciary to make changes.
With an emphasis on equality and fairness, civil law systems usually require proof of a right or duty, to determine whether it is enforced, and provide remedies when it is not.
While some civil law systems have evolved in a way that allows them to accommodate new needs and social change, some remain more rigid than others.
For example, in the United States, most federal law is derived from the federal statutes that Congress has enacted, and some state and local laws are based on statutes passed by their legislatures.
In most countries, the legislatures also have control over the courts, which in turn have a vested interest in interpreting laws correctly and fairly.
It is this vested interest that has led to the idea of stare decisis, which means that decisions by higher courts will be followed by lower ones.
This is especially true of common law systems, in which the decisions of the highest courts are recognized as law on equal footing with statutes adopted by the legislature and the executive branch.