Law is a systematic system of rules developed and enforced by governmental or social institutions to control behavior, with an exact definition no longer in dispute since the time of its creation. In common use, it is usually taken to be a human rights code, but this usage is typically misleading. In fact, law is any body of law that governs conduct, with the courts as the repositories of this law. The word ‘law’ has various meanings, including civil law, penal law, or legislation. It is used to describe just about anything in the legal system, including contracts, trusts, property, and murder.
The law provides citizens with a set of rights and responsibilities, laid down by the government. Civil law is that part of the legal system that deals with disputes between individuals and organizations, including civil suits, actions for damages, and claims for wrongful deaths. Criminal law deals with crimes against the state, including acts of terrorism, organized crime, felonies, misdemeanors, and capital offenses.
The most familiar branches of the law are criminal and civil law. Jurisprudence refers to the body of law that permits judges, magistrates, and other attorneys to settle questions of right and wrong. Common law jurisdictions include English law, American law, and Canadian law. The authority of the courts is derived from the jurisdictions in which they operate, although they are sometimes derived from the common law itself. The authority of the legislature is derived from the Constitution of the United States, the British Parliament, and provincial legislatures.
The United States has a written Constitution, which contains the legislative and executive branch of the government, as well as certain constitutional protections for individual rights. The Bill of Rights, passed in 1791, protects the rights set forth in the Constitution. Two amendments to the Constitution, the First and Fifth amendments, have been incorporated into the U.S. Bill of Rights. Other important legal documents include the Bill of Rights, the U.S. Constitution, and the Digest of the Oklahoma statutes. The tenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution, known as the amendment concerning freedom of speech, was added by the suffragette wing of the Republican Party in response to the legal precedents set by the U.S. Supreme Court in the nineteenth century regarding speech.
The function of the legal system is to establish standards of conduct for the states and to protect those standards. Civil society exists to ensure that the rules of the state are observed. The role of the courts is to determine whether those rules are being followed. The function of the legal system is to determine the liability and to award damages for wrongs committed. In this way, the law provides a mechanism through which individuals can be held accountable for their actions.
Every nation has laws. In the United States, a complex system of laws and legal protections are found throughout the country, which makes obtaining a judgment against an individual very difficult if not impossible. A state’s system of law provides a level of protection against encroachment by other states, as well as national and international human rights violations and criminal acts.