Law is a structured system of laws designed and enforced by governmental or civic bodies to govern behavior, with its exact definition having been subject to ongoing discussion since the earliest times. It was differentially defined as the art and science of civil law. In the modern era, law is commonly understood to be judicial or legislative law designed for the protection of human rights. It is the body of law that governs the administration of criminal justice, including the operation of criminal courts, juries, correction, punishment, rehabilitation and proscription. There are three levels of law: civil law, criminal law and private law.
Civil law includes the authority reserved to individuals, corporations, government agencies and associations to bring legal action in a court of law. Civil law seeks to resolve non-capital offenses such as breach of peace, sedition, incitement to crime, and riots. Civil law also involves disputes between private parties, including disagreements over property, contract disputes, regulatory matters such as tort law, and natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods. Criminal law, on the other hand, involves offenses that are committed in a criminal court, including felonies and misdemeanors. Criminal law also involves prosecution of individuals for crimes that occurred in the course of a civil action.
The jurisdiction of courts is derived from the jurisdictions established by statutory law, common law, constitutional law, and judicial precedent. The U.S. Supreme Court exercise the power to declare constitutional principles, and to limit the powers of the federal government. Judicial precedent refers to prior cases decided by lower courts that are precedent in the state or federal courts. The power of the courts to decide issues not within their jurisdiction is derived from Article III of the U.S. Constitution. It provides citizens with a forum to litigate disputes between private parties and seek the resolution of issues that involve both private rights and public interest.
In addition to interpreting laws that have been passed by the legislature, the courts also interpret precedents set by the previous and present governments. As the Supreme Court has indicated, there are three categories of opinions that it will not entertain: substantive, comparative, and implication. Treating the political branches equal in stature with the other branches of the legal system, the court will not necessarily look to a standing public in deciding what laws it will allow to be passed. Rather, it will look to the states, when the issue is one of public law, for its view of what the state’s citizens believe to be ethical or immoral.
Within the states, there are two types of jurisdictions-jurisdiction in which a lawyer practices, and venue-jurisdiction at common law. In a venue-based jurisdiction, lawyers practice in local courts, but when they do so, the majority of cases they file are usually in federal courts. Unlike the common law jurisdictions, venue-based laws do not recognize private rights. For instance, if a person is convicted of stealing in the city of Boston, they will generally have their case moved to the state court in Boston, because that is where the theft was charged.
The third and final rule is Canon 910. This rule requires the courts to follow their precedents, which are decided in precedents established by lower courts. Just as the Fourth Amendment protects all Americans, so does every rule of criminal law. Therefore, when interpreting a law, it is important to decide what the scope of the law is, not the extent of the power granted to the state to enact the rule.