Law is a system of rules that are created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It has been defined both as "the Science of Justice" and "the Art of Justice". Law is a system that regulates and ensures that individuals or a community adhere to the will of the state. State-enforced laws can be made by a collective legislature or by a single legislator, resulting in statutes, by the executive through decrees and regulations, or established by judges through precedent in common law jurisdictions. Private individuals can create binding contracts, including arbitration agreements that may elect to accept alternative arbitration to the normal court process; the formation of laws themselves may be influenced by a constitution, written or tacit, the rights encoded therein. The law shapes politics, economics and society in various ways and serves as a mediator of relations between people. A general distinction can be made between civil law jurisdictions, in which a legislature or other central body codifies and consolidates their laws, common law systems, where judge-made precedent is accepted as binding law.
Religious laws played a significant role in settling of secular matters, is still used in some religious communities. Islamic Sharia law is the world's most used religious law, is used as the primary legal system in some countries, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia; the adjudication of the law is divided into two main areas. Criminal law deals with conduct, considered harmful to social order and in which the guilty party may be imprisoned or fined. Civil law deals with the resolution of lawsuits between individuals and/or organizations. Law provides a source of scholarly inquiry into legal history, economic analysis and sociology. Law raises important and complex issues concerning equality and justice. Numerous definitions of law have been put forward over the centuries; the Third New International Dictionary from Merriam-Webster defines law as: "Law is a binding custom or practice of a community. The Dictionary of the History of Ideas published by Scribner's in 1973 defined the concept of law accordingly as: "A legal system is the most explicit, institutionalized, complex mode of regulating human conduct.
At the same time, it plays only one part in the congeries of rules which influence behavior, for social and moral rules of a less institutionalized kind are of great importance." There have been several attempts to produce "a universally acceptable definition of law". In 1972, one source indicated. McCoubrey and White said that the question "what is law?" has no simple answer. Glanville Williams said that the meaning of the word "law" depends on the context in which that word is used, he said that, for example, "early customary law" and "municipal law" were contexts where the word "law" had two different and irreconcilable meanings. Thurman Arnold said that it is obvious that it is impossible to define the word "law" and that it is equally obvious that the struggle to define that word should not be abandoned, it is possible to take the view that there is no need to define the word "law". The history of law links to the development of civilization. Ancient Egyptian law, dating as far back as 3000 BC, contained a civil code, broken into twelve books.
It was based on the concept of Ma'at, characterised by tradition, rhetorical speech, social equality and impartiality. By the 22nd century BC, the ancient Sumerian ruler Ur-Nammu had formulated the first law code, which consisted of casuistic statements. Around 1760 BC, King Hammurabi further developed Babylonian law, by codifying and inscribing it in stone. Hammurabi placed several copies of his law code throughout the kingdom of Babylon as stelae, for the entire public to see; the most intact copy of these stelae was discovered in the 19th century by British Assyriologists, has since been transliterated and translated into various languages, including English, Italian and French. The Old Testament dates back to 1280 BC and takes the form of moral imperatives as recommendations for a good society; the small Greek city-state, ancient Athens, from about the 8th century BC was the first society to be based on broad inclusion of its citizenry, excluding women and the slave class. However, Athens had no legal science or single word for "law", relying instead on the three-way distinction between divine law, human decree and custom.
Yet Ancient Greek law contained major constitutional innovations in the development of democracy. Roman law was influenced by Greek philosophy, but its detailed rules were developed by professional jurists and were sophisticated. Over the centuries between the rise and decline of the Roman Empire, law was adapted to cope with the changing social situations and underwent major codification under Theodosius II and Justinian I. Although codes were replaced by custom and case law during the Dark Ages, Roman law was rediscovered around the 11th century when medieval legal scholars began to research Roman codes and adapt their concepts. Latin legal maxims were compiled for guidance. In medieval England, royal
Law of the United States
The law of the United States comprises many levels of codified and uncodified forms of law, of which the most important is the United States Constitution, the foundation of the federal government of the United States. The Constitution sets out the boundaries of federal law, which consists of Acts of Congress, treaties ratified by the Senate, regulations promulgated by the executive branch, case law originating from the federal judiciary; the United States Code is the official compilation and codification of general and permanent federal statutory law. Federal law and treaties, so long as they are in accordance with the Constitution, preempt conflicting state and territorial laws in the 50 U. S. in the territories. However, the scope of federal preemption is limited because the scope of federal power is not universal. In the dual-sovereign system of American federalism, states are the plenary sovereigns, each with their own constitution, while the federal sovereign possesses only the limited supreme authority enumerated in the Constitution.
Indeed, states may grant their citizens broader rights than the federal Constitution as long as they do not infringe on any federal constitutional rights. Thus, most U. S. law consists of state law, which can and does vary from one state to the next. At both the federal and state levels, with the exception of the state of Louisiana, the law of the United States is derived from the common law system of English law, in force at the time of the American Revolutionary War. However, American law has diverged from its English ancestor both in terms of substance and procedure, has incorporated a number of civil law innovations. In the United States, the law is derived from five sources: constitutional law, statutory law, administrative regulations, the common law. Where Congress enacts a statute that conflicts with the Constitution, state or federal courts may rule that law to be unconstitutional and declare it invalid. Notably, a statute does not automatically disappear because it has been found unconstitutional.
Many federal and state statutes have remained on the books for decades after they were ruled to be unconstitutional. However, under the principle of stare decisis, no sensible lower court will enforce an unconstitutional statute, any court that does so will be reversed by the Supreme Court. Conversely, any court that refuses to enforce a constitutional statute will risk reversal by the Supreme Court. Commonwealth countries are heirs to the common law legal tradition of English law. Certain practices traditionally allowed under English common law were expressly outlawed by the Constitution, such as bills of attainder.</ref> and general search rrts. As common law courts, U. S. courts have inherited the principle of stare decisis. American judges, like common law judges elsewhere, not only apply the law, they make the law, to the extent that their decisions in the cases before them become precedent for decisions in future cases; the actual substance of English law was formally "received" into the United States in several ways.
First, all U. S. states except Louisiana have enacted "reception statutes" which state that the common law of England is the law of the state to the extent that it is not repugnant to domestic law or indigenous conditions. Some reception statutes impose a specific cutoff date for reception, such as the date of a colony's founding, while others are deliberately vague. Thus, contemporary U. S. courts cite pre-Revolution cases when discussing the evolution of an ancient judge-made common law principle into its modern form, such as the heightened duty of care traditionally imposed upon common carriers. Second, a small number of important British statutes in effect at the time of the Revolution have been independently reenacted by U. S. states. Two examples are the Statute of 13 Elizabeth; such English statutes are still cited in contemporary American cases interpreting their modern American descendants. Despite the presence of reception statutes, much of contemporary American common law has diverged from English common law.
Although the courts of the various Commonwealth nations are influenced by each other's rulings, American courts follow post-Revolution Commonwealth rulings unless there is no American ruling on point, the facts and law at issue are nearly identical, the reasoning is persuasive. Early on, American courts after the Revolution did cite contemporary English cases, because appellate decisions from many American courts were not reported until the mid-19th century. Lawyers and judges used English legal materials to fill the gap. Citations to English decisions disappeared during the 19th century as American courts developed their own principles to resolve the legal problems of the American people; the number of published volumes of American reports soared from eighteen in 1810 to over 8,000 by 1910. By 1879 one of the delegates to the California constitutional convention was complaining: "Now, when we require them to state the reasons for a decision, we do not mean they shall write a hundred pages of detail.
We not mean that they shall include the small cases, impose on the country all this fine judici