The Basics of Law


Law is a discipline and profession that deals with the rules created and enforced by societies. It encompasses the study of legal systems and raises many questions about fairness and justice. It also provides the basis for much scholarly inquiry in areas such as history, philosophy and economic analysis.

Articles dealing with law are generally classified in three main categories, though these subjects intertwine and overlap:

Criminal law – Deals with the punishment of conduct deemed to be harmful to society.

Civil law – Deals with the resolution of disputes between individuals. Examples include property, accident and tort law.

Administrative law – Deals with the way a government does its business. It includes governmental regulations concerning taxation, labour and environmental protection.

Law of the land – Deals with the customs and practice that form the foundation of a country’s legal system. This can also include the concept of common law and its development.

The law of precedent – A court decision in an earlier case with facts and issues similar to the dispute being heard will normally govern its decision, unless it can be shown that the earlier ruling was wrongly decided or substantially different.

Jury – A group of people selected to hear the evidence in a trial and decide whether or not someone is guilty of a crime. Generally only citizens are eligible to serve as jurors. Prosecutor – A person who tries a criminal case on behalf of the government. Defense attorney – An individual who defends the interests of a client in a court case against a criminal charge or a civil lawsuit. Public defender – Represents convicted defendants who can’t afford an attorney in criminal cases.

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