Law is a body of laws developed and governed by governments or other political organizations to control behavior, with its exact definition still a matter of longstanding disagreement. It can be variously defined as the science of justice and the art of law. But whatever definition we use, the law is generally considered a universal solvent that governs all human actions. If we want to know how the law governs us, we have to ask how it works. How the law is applied in practice can help us see how it benefits society as a whole.
Law governs the administration of societal activities through the creation and enforcement of statutes, including civil and criminal codes. Statutory law is created by governmental authorities such as the constitution, statute laws, federal laws, and others. It is primarily judicial in nature. Statutory law is subject to court review for validity and consistency with the constitution. A case may be filed to invalidate a statute if it is found to be inconsistent with the constitution for one reason or another.
Judicial law is ruled on the basis of precedent-setting cases. Every law passed by the legislative bodies has to be interpreted by the courts interpreting previous cases. Some laws are intended to have an immediate effect on the parties that incurs them such as laws that address trusts, estates, corporate organizations, and certain private rights. In such case, courts are empowered to enforce them through actions taken within a specified time frame or other specified modes.
Criminal law, on the other hand, is ruled on the basis of punishment inflicted. This type of law is commonly referred to as punitive law. Punishment imposed on someone for an act is deemed to be the most appropriate way to punish that person for the commission of the crime. For example, a person who kills his neighbor in anger for some perceived wrong is legally punishable by imprisonment. In contrast, a person who tries to poison the food of his neighbors in anger is not legally punished by imprisonment but given heavy fines.
In the United States, both judicial and legislative law is primarily ruled on a pure theory of liability. Pure theory states that when there is an injury or damage caused to another person, the only thing that matters is who is at fault. Virtually, the courts do not care about whether the damages resulted from a contract, an act or the nature of the crime. In this respect, the concept of “comparative negligence” is different from pure theory, and courts may enforce liability actions even if the defendant did not bear any moral responsibility towards the victim.
The other two types of law recognized in the United States are civil law and criminal law. Civil law is the authority of courts to resolve disputes with private parties. For civil law, the parties involved are considered private entities and are not the subjects of any constitutional, statutory or judicial ruling. The cases resolved by these courts are generally representative of the general principles on which the nation’s judicial system is based. Criminal law, on the other hand, is enforcing the penal code.