What Is Law?

Law is a system of rules that people use to deal with crime, business agreements, and social relationships. It can also refer to the people who work in law, such as lawyers and judges.

Laws are written by governments to regulate and protect people’s rights. They cover many areas, such as the right to privacy, the right to work and education, and the right to a fair trial.

Legal systems vary from country to country, and are based on different traditions and customs. Some are derived from the Roman and ancient Egyptian civil codes, while others are influenced by modern European laws.

Religion is an important source of law in some countries. Jewish and Islamic law are based on religious precepts, while Christian canon law continues to be applied in some church communities.

Criminal law is used to punish individuals for crimes against other people or the government. Examples of crime include murder, theft, and assault.

Tort law involves disputes over property and money. A very common type of tort is negligence, which causes damage to someone or their property by a person’s carelessness or recklessness.

The doctrine of precedent is a principle that states that courts must follow previous court decisions unless there are compelling reasons to do otherwise. In common law legal systems, the principle is referred to as “stare decisis,” and it means that future courts must follow the decision of the prior court.

Jurisdiction – The geographic area over which a court has authority to hear and decide cases. Federal courts have jurisdiction over cases brought by citizens of other states, while state courts generally have authority only over cases arising in their own states.

Judgments – Official decisions of courts that are legally binding on both parties to a suit. A judgment can be either a finding of a wrongdoing or an order to pay damages, or both.

Evidence – Oral testimony presented during trials or before grand juries; often, it is written down as a transcript.

Proof – Evidence that proves a fact. It may be in the form of a witness’s statement or an affidavit.

Judge – A government official with authority to decide lawsuits. A court may be a state or federal agency, such as a district court or the Supreme Court.

Juror – A person selected to be a member of the jury that decides whether or not a defendant committed a crime. A juror may be a judge or a civilian.

Nolo contendere – A plea of not guilty that does not admit guilt; it is often used to obtain a lighter sentence, or as a bargaining chip in a lawsuit.

Objections – Protests made by an attorney that the statements or questions of a witness at a trial are not valid and should be ruled against.

In most nations, politics is the dominant force in making and enforcing law. Unstable or authoritarian governments often fail to enforce their laws adequately, leading to a rise in revolts and aspirations for greater “rights” for citizens.