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In science, the word law refers to a statement that describes regular or patterned relationships among observable phenomena (see physical law). Laws of logic and mathematics describe the nature of rational thought. Laws of economics and psychology describe the nature of human behavior and interaction. Many adages are popularly known as "laws"; such as Murphy's law.

This article is concerned with laws of politics and jurisprudence: rules of conduct which mandate and/or proscribe specified relationships among people and organizations; as well as punishments for those who do not follow the established rules of conduct.

In ethics and moral philosophy this type of law is often called a "human legal code" to distinguish it from more fundamental laws applicable to all beings (metaphysics, ontology). Such a body of laws can be seen as a legally-enforced ethical code or as a "secular moral code" (to the degree that political leaders replace religious leaders as moral examples). Because lawyers and jurists more than other professions are self-regulating, almost by definition, they are often held to higher standards of behaviour or at least a stricter etiquette. These concerns are not part of this article, because those expectations and disciplines are specific to each legal code. This article takes an English speaking point of view and deals with other legal traditions and codes by way of comparison only.

Table of contents

Political Jurisprudence According to Western liberal political theory, a body of law or a legal system attempts to balance individual rights and social control, which are viewed as being inversely related, and is enforced by a system of criminal justice; this practice is known as the rule of law. In most political and legal theory, this refers specifically to a formal system administered and enforced by a government, and more generally to all aspects of governmental decision making. Such laws are considered to be "inviolate" and "set in stone", practitioners argue that nobody is "above the law" and that there is a "supremacy of law". US President Kennedy said, "Americans are free to disagree with the law, but not to disobey it...no man...is entitled to defy a court of law". Breaches of law are commonly known as "crimes," "torts" and "breach of contract".

Codification of Law Law is the formal codification of customs which have achieved such acceptance as become the enforced norm. The process of acceptance is accelerated by the existence of legislative bodies which seek to impose laws.

Law codification involves the legislation and regulation of statutes; as well as the resolution of disputess. In the civil law system codification is also an attempt to structure the law according to fundamental ethical principles to create a sense of order and simplicity that all members of society can comprehend, not merely university trained jurists. Stating the law in simple, precise terms, understandable to the lay person without a specialized legal education, is the only ay they can reasonably obey it or be fairly sanctioned for not obeying it.

This overlaps with the idea of a formal social legal code as understood in ethics. This may be understandable to the educated lay person but perhaps not to the ordinary lay person. For example, one can explain the idea of precedent more easily than that of the reasonable man[?], but it may be much harder to explain why precedent is "fair" to one without "higher education". The following are examples of such lay explanations. of different branches of law, and theories of law.

They are not comprehensive.

Branches of Law, a sampling

Please note: Wikipedia does not give legal advice.

Law as academic discipline and profession

In addition to being part of the societal framework law is also an academic discipline and a profession. Lawyers are sometimes called by other names, as in England where the profession is divided between solicitors and barristers. Sometimes they are also called notaries. They are professionally trained in the United States at graduate[?] schools of law leading to the J.D. degree (Juris Doctor). In other countries legal education is considered to start at the undergraduate stage taught in faculty of law leading to the L.L.B. or B.C.L. degrees. Most of these schools also have advanced legal degrees such as the LL.M.[?] and the J.S.D.[?] degrees. Many persons who attend law school never practice law but use their knowledge of law in another profession. See Law (academic) and jurisprudence For law as a profession, see lawyer, jurist and practice of law.

Further Discussion

Most laws and legal systems --at least in the Western world-- are quite similar in their essential themes, arising from similar values and similar social, economic, and political conditions, and they typically differ less in their substantive content than in their jargon and procedures.
One of the fundamental similarities across different legal systems is that, to be of general approval and observation, a law has to appear to be public, effective, and legitimate, in the sense that it has to be available to the knowledge of the citizen in common places or means, it needs to contain instruments to grant its application, and it has to be issued under given formal procedures from a recognized authority.
In the context of most legal systems, laws are enacted through the processes of constitutional charter, constitutional amendment, legislation, executive order, rulemaking[?], and adjudication; within Common law jurisdictions, rulings by judges are an important additional source of legal rules. However, de facto laws also come into existence through custom and tradition. (See generally Consuetudinary law; Anarchist law.)

A particular society or community adopts a specific set of laws to regulate the behavior of its own members, to order life in its political territory, to grant or acknowledge the rights and privileges of its citizens and other people who may come under the jurisdiction of its courts, and to resolve disputes.
There are several distinct laws and legal traditions, and each jurisdiction has its own set of laws and its own legal system. Individually codified laws are known as statutes, and the collective body of laws relating to one subject or emanating from one source are usually identified by specific reference.
(E.g., Roman law, Common law, and Criminal law.) Moreover, the several different levels of government each produce their own laws, though the extent to which law is centralized varies. Thus, at any one place there can be conflicting laws in force at the local, regional, state, national, or international levels. (See conflict of laws, Preemption of State and Local Laws.)

Legal systems and traditions Canon law - Civil law - Common law - European Community law - International law - Roman law - Socialist law - Anarchist law - Sharia (Islamic law)

Legal subject areas Administrative law - Admiralty - Alternative dispute resolution - Appellate review - Civil procedure - Civil rights - Commercial law - Comparative law - Consuetudinary law - Contracts - Constitutional law - Courts of England and Wales - Corporations law - Criminal law - Criminal procedure - Environmental law - Equity - Evidence - Family law - Human rights - Immigration - Intellectual property - Jurisprudence - Law of Obligations - Labor law - Land use - List of items for which possession is restricted - Philosophy of law - Practice of law - Private law - Procedural law - Property law - Statutory law - Tax law - Torts - Trusts and Estates - Cyber law

Subjects Auxiliary to Law Government - Legal history - Law and literature[?] - Political science

Terms, case law, legislation and other resources

Legal books

Law & Legal News & Reference

Further Readings

  • Cheyenne Way: Conflict & Case Law in Primitive Jurisprudence, Karl N. Llewellyn and E. Adamson Hoebel, University of Oklahoma Press, 1983, trade paperback, 374 pages, ISBN 0806118555
  • Other books by Karl N. Llewellyn (http://browse.addall.com/Browse/Author/2088479-1)

See also: law (principle), religious law, legal code, natural law

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