Law is a set of rules developed and administered by governmental or civic bodies to socially regulate behavior, often with an emphasis on individual liberty and its protection. It has traditionally been variously defined as the art and science of civil law, including its administration. It studies the “rights, powers, duties, and privileges of individuals” and their protection from the state. In the United States, the field of public law has included in its curriculum the study of laws regulating private organizations, including corporations, partnerships, limited liability, and insurance.
In addition to the many federal and state legislations that constitute the workings of the legal system, a number of bodies exist within society at large, whose primary function is to govern behavior by public authorities. For example, most local governments adopt by-laws that restrict speech, licensing of certain activities, regulating commercial activities, and many other aspects of day-to-day life. The courts, too, have the responsibility and power to uphold the Constitution of the United States and protect the welfare and rights of all citizens. Because the courts are limited in both cost and jurisdiction, they necessarily have an interest in ensuring that the courts do not become corrupt or otherwise lose their legitimacy.
In order to be valid, laws must have an adequate basis for establishing their validity. The existence and strength of any law’s basis is critical to its legitimacy. A line can be drawn as the boundary between permissible regulation and impermissible encroachment, but the line will itself be subject to challenge. As a result, the courts must always remain vigilant and defend the validity of a legislature’s lawmaking actions against criticism from various quarters. The ultimate aim of the courts is not simply to entertain opposing views but to ensure that the general welfare of society as a whole is not endangered.
Two things like separation of property and jurisdiction can be seen as the logical extensions of laws that have already been enacted by the legislative bodies of the United States. Separation of property refers to property that is owned by one person and has come under the exclusive jurisdiction of one person. Jurisdiction refers to jurisdiction over all matters of law that fall under the legal field.
Some scholars maintain that the differences among the United States’ legal systems result from the fact that the Constitution and Bill of Rights of the framers give the federal government more power in civil law than in other areas of law. There are two possible interpretations of this. One view is that the framers intended to transfer power from the federal government to the courts so that the courts would have broad discretionary authority in interpreting the Constitution. The other view is that the framers intended that civil law would not extend to matters such as taxation or involuntary transfers of property. Because people disagree about these things, the courts have had to apply the standard set forth in the Fifth Amendment to decide what jurisdictions a court can exercise jurisdiction over.
Some jurisdictions that are overseen by the United States Supreme Court have applied the theories of substantive and procedural due process and equal protection of all citizens, while others have ruled that businesses cannot be sued for activities within their own states. In the area of criminal law, there are three different theories that courts may exercise: common law, equity, and valedictory. Most states use some variation of these theories in their civil and criminal codes. Civil law deals with disputes between individuals and businesses and criminal law deals with disputes between individuals and governments.