Law is a body of rules that governs society, establishing standards and maintaining order. It also serves to resolve disputes and protect individual rights. It is an important part of a country’s politics, economics and culture.
Various legal systems have evolved in different countries around the world, with many based on principles developed by Roman law, and others influenced by local traditions or cultures. Some of these legal systems are still in use today, while others have been abolished and replaced by newer ones.
Civil law (also known as continental or Romano-Germanic law) is the most common type of legal system used in most countries. It combines the concepts, categories and rules of Roman law with those of local custom and tradition, but it is secularized over time and promotes the development of individual freedom.
Constitutional law is the law that determines how a government is organized and functions. This includes rules about how a country’s governmental powers are distributed and the way it is taxed and regulated. It includes provisions about the rights of individuals, the judicial process, and how courts are run.
Criminal law covers laws that forbid certain actions and punish those who break them. The law may be enforced by a prosecutor who charges someone with a crime, or by a court that sentences them to jail or other punishment.
In criminal cases, a defendant may present their case to the judge without any representation from a lawyer; they are often called pro se. They have the right to ask questions of the judge and to request discovery – an examination of the facts and documents by the opponent’s lawyers.
Pro se is the Latin word for “on one’s own behalf”. In criminal cases, public defenders are available to represent people who cannot afford attorneys.
Appeals from a judgment are usually heard by the Supreme Court or a higher court, though they may be held in session en banc, which means that all judges participate in the decision. This is often done in high-profile cases that the Supreme Court or a state’s highest court has deemed significant enough to be held en banc.
Courts are public institutions that rule on cases involving a variety of different interests and issues. They are the first place for a person to seek redress for a wrong, and they are also where a person can bring a claim for money damages or other compensation against a private or public institution.
A judge is a government official with the authority to decide lawsuits brought before a court. In the United States, judges are appointed by federal and state governments to hear cases.
Precedent – A legal ruling in a previous case that has similar facts and law to the current case, which is considered binding unless the party challenging it can prove that it was incorrectly decided or was not a major difference. It is a guide to the law that can be used as a starting point for discussion and negotiation before a trial begins.