The Basics of Law

Law is a system of rules that is created and enforced through social or governmental institutions. These laws can be created by a legislature or executive, through decrees and regulations, or through precedent.

Legal norms define the rights and duties of individuals within a jurisdiction at a particular point in time. These norms are generally enforceable by state coercion.

A legal norm becomes valid from the moment it is published as part of a legal order and becomes binding from the moment it binds the subjects of its authority. However, a legal norm can be terminated by explicit derogation or automatic derogation.

The four principal purposes of law are establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights. Those are typically achieved through the creation of public and private laws that can be enforced by courts.

Typical areas of law include civil procedure, criminal procedure and evidence. These relate to a citizen’s right to a fair trial or hearing and the materials that must be admitted in a court case.

Litigation is the process of a lawsuit that involves a dispute between parties (plaintiff and defendant) over a legal issue. The plaintiff initiates the suit and usually chooses which court to file it in.

Jurisdiction is the geographic area over which a court has authority to decide a lawsuit. The federal court system has authority over many issues, and state and local courts have jurisdiction over others.

In a court of law, the chief judge oversees all aspects of the operation of a court and the judges are governed by seniority. They are also responsible for deciding cases and selecting the jury pool.