Law is a systematic system of laws designed and enforced by governmental or social institutions to regulate conduct, with an approximate definition an issue of long standing debate. It can be variously defined as the study of justice and a science; however it is usually associated with the practice of law as an abstract form of knowledge applied to particular situations. In most legal systems, law is a branch of government whose primary purpose is to prevent, punish and define criminal activity. In other systems, the law is understood as involving unlimited realm of human endeavor, including technological, economic, social and political activities.

Civil law is the body of law relating to private parties, including corporations, individuals, government agencies and natural persons. Civil law includes laws that govern rights, privileges and obligations of individuals, corporations and associations. The most prominent area of civil law is tort law, which is the body of law that authorizes the admission of a person’s claims in a court of law against another individual or entity for alleged damages or injuries. A claim against a public entity such as a government agency is also classified as a civil case.

Within the field of civil law are four branches: common law, statutory law, judicial law and common law privileges and immunities. The body of law that is commonly referred to as “American law” is what is known as” Constitutional law.” All other types of law are categorized under common law.

Civil laws, like all other laws, are enacted by the governments through policy statements or statutes enacted through statutory law. Statutory laws are laws that are enacted by a majority of state legislatures or the United States Congress. The federal constitution, adopted by a national legislature, provides the supreme law in America.

Civil codes also include general rules, which serve as guidelines to individual conduct. General rules of civil conduct, including negligence, breach of the peace, slander, are referred to as “common law.” On the other hand, natural law, which are things like laws of nature, laws regarding animals, and laws concerning the rights of man in particular, are referred to as “natural law.” These two sets of laws, along with common law, form the basis of the American legal system.

A number of commentators, legal scholars, and legal researchers have argued that one body, the United States, is a democracy in which laws are regulated through a complex system of checks and balances, rather than through a singular body like that of natural law or common law. This, they say, gives individual’s room to get away with crime since the penalties for many crimes are either extremely light or non-existent. In addition, they say, our system of checks and balances helps maintain a sense of freedom in a country that has often been seen as having little freedom. The argument that one body, the US, has two systems of regulation and one body, the Supreme Court, is frequently used by opponents of legalized abortion as well as by some supporters of legalized abortion.

By Arlene Huff

Arlene Huff is the founding member of Golden State Online. Before that She was a general assignment reporter. A native Californian, she graduated from the University of California with a degree in medical anthropology and global health. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

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