Law is a framework that ensures a safe and orderly society. It lays down rules forbidding certain actions and punishes those who break them. It also provides a system for resolving disputes. For example, if two people both claim ownership of a piece of property, the courts can decide who owns it. It is also a system that recognizes and protects fundamental individual rights, including liberty and equality.
There are many different views of what Law is, and a great deal of discussion and debate about how it should be created. Some see it as a complex set of rules, whereas others view it as a set of ideals and principles that govern human behavior. In either case, a successful legal system needs to be clear, fair and understandable to its citizens.
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This entry includes a brief introduction to the different kinds of law. It is designed to provide a quick overview of the topic for students, researchers and general readers interested in learning about Law.
Law is the body of rules and principles governing the affairs of a community and enforced by its political authority. The term also refers to the condition of social order and justice created by adherence to such a system.
Legal systems are found on all continents and cover about 60% of the world’s population. The most common are the civil law systems, which use concepts, categories and rules derived from Roman law with some influence from canon law and often supplemented or modified by local custom and culture. The civil law tradition has always sought to balance individual freedom with social cooperation, and this spirit continues today in the form of law’s respect for fundamental human, procedural and property rights.
Another kind of law is the constitutional or common law. This system of laws is based on precedent, or the detailed history of court rulings that have been used to determine how to interpret a statute or action. The presiding judge in any given case decides how much weight to give to a particular precedent. Whether the case involves a civil, criminal or administrative matter, the judicial process relies on this established body of law to guide its decisions.
In some countries, the legal system is separated from the executive branch and the legislature. In other countries, such as the United States, the legislative and judicial functions are combined in an integrated government. In either case, it is essential that the governmental bodies are independent of each other and not subject to corruption or undue pressure from special interests. It is also necessary that they have a transparent, fair and understandable system of law in place so that ordinary citizens can collaborate with the government in providing public services and maintaining the rule of Law.