Law is a set of rules that are created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It has been variously described as a science, an art and a form of justice. The precise definition of law has been a matter of longstanding debate. Man devises laws to achieve a variety of ends: to ensure property rights, maintain order and protect human rights. Laws may be established by a collective legislature or individual legislators through statutes, by the executive through decrees and regulations or through court decisions known as case law in common law jurisdictions. Individuals may also establish law through legally binding contracts.
The field of Law encompasses a wide range of disciplines and professions, including legal history, philosophy, sociology and economic analysis. It raises complex questions about equality and fairness as well as about the role of governments and private individuals in society. It is a rich source of material for research and discussion, and provides an essential context for other fields such as anthropology, history, political science and economics.
In practice, the law is constantly changing and evolving. This is because it reflects the ever-changing nature of human society, and the ways in which people interact with each other and with their environment. Law is also influenced by a multitude of cultural and historical factors, as evidenced by the fact that different cultures have developed very different systems of law over time.
As with any field of study, there are a number of key terms that are important to know when studying Law. Some of these include:
Appeals – The process whereby someone asks another court to review a decision made by the trial court for a number of reasons including improper procedure. The person who makes an appeal is called the appellant.
Civil Law – A system of law that deals with disputes between individuals or businesses rather than between the government and a private citizen. It can cover a wide range of issues from car accidents to defamation of character.
Constitution – The document that sets out the fundamental principles of a country, such as its political system, the rights of citizens and how the courts operate. It is the primary source of authority for the government of a country.
Defamation – The act of demeaning a person by saying something about them that is untrue. In the United States, it is a crime that can be punished by up to five years in prison. Criminal Law – The area of law that deals with crimes against the state or its citizens, such as robbery and murder. The punishments for these crimes can be very severe, including imprisonment and even death.