What Is Law?
Generally speaking, law is a set of rules that are enforced by governmental institutions. It shapes politics, economics, and history. It also shapes the makeup of communities. Those who create these laws are called legislators.
Laws can be state-enforced, meaning they are made by a single legislator or a group of lawmakers. They may also be created by executive decrees. Those who enforce them are called judges. In some common law jurisdictions, judges explicitly acknowledge that they are making “law.”
Some examples of state-enforced laws are laws on water, electricity, and gas. They are also influenced by constitutions.
Another example of a state-enforced law is one that regulates corporate taxes. It is known as antitrust law in the United States. These laws grew out of anti-cartel statutes of the turn of the 20th century. They control businesses that distort the price of goods or services in the market.
Other types of laws include religious laws, such as Islamic Sharia. They are written on religious precepts and often suggest that God’s word is unchangeable. Other religions that have some form of law are Protestant Christianity, Catholicism, and Judaism.
A criminal case starts with a complaint. This is a statement of what the plaintiff alleges the defendant did. The defendant is then told of the charges against him or her and asked to plead guilty or not guilty. If the defendant pleads guilty, he or she is convicted of the crime. Typically, the charge is a law that the police believe the defendant broke.
If the defendant pleads not guilty, the judge may ask the prosecutor to file a plea deal with the defendant. A plea deal is an agreement between the defendant and the prosecutor to have the case dismissed or reduced in severity. Usually, the case is then sent to a jury. This jury is chosen by a process called voir dire. During deliberations, juries are sometimes sequestered from outside influence.
The final decision of a court is called a judgment. This judgment determines the rights of the parties involved in the suit. A judgment can be appealed, if the defendant disagrees with the judgment. If the judgment is a capital offense, a defendant may be subject to imprisonment. The judge can also decide to give probation instead of imprisonment.
Aside from courts, other legal systems include arbitration, which involves private individuals creating legally binding contracts. These legal systems are less detailed and require less judicial decisions.
The doctrine of precedent means that the same court’s decision will generally govern the outcome of a similar case. It is important for the decision of a lower court to follow the decision of a higher court.
These courts of appeals have the power to review the judgment of the lower courts. They are usually composed of three judges. If the case is important, the number of judges may be increased.
The clerk of the court maintains court records and helps the judge manage the flow of cases through the court. The clerk is a public official who is appointed by the chief judge.