Law is a set of rules that govern social institutions. This includes political, economic, and cultural affairs. Laws can be made by governments, groups of lawmakers, or individuals. Legal systems can also be divided into civil law and common law.
Civil law is a legal system that requires less detailed judicial decisions. Common law is a more detailed legal system that acknowledges decisions by courts. In addition to judicial decision making, common law systems are often based on the doctrine of precedent. By virtue of this, decisions by the higher court bind the lower courts to follow them.
The common law legal system is most recognizable through the use of the word “law.” Lawyers in the United States refer to their clients as “litigants.” A litigant is a person who has sued another party, either by starting a lawsuit or by settling one.
A lawsuit is initiated when a person tries to prove that another has done something wrong. This is usually through a complaint, which is a written statement of the allegations. Once a plaintiff has established a case, the judge must decide whether or not to hold a trial. If the case proceeds to a trial, each party to the suit must be present to give evidence.
Trials are conducted by a jury. A jury is a group of individuals chosen randomly from a pool of potential jurors. During a trial, a judge lays out the charges against the defendant, and the parties have to plead guilty or not guilty. There is usually a pretrial conference, during which the judge and lawyers discuss the instructions to the jury.
Trials can be held in state or federal courts. Some cases are heard in both jurisdictions. When a party is unable to afford an attorney, a public defender can be hired.
An indictment is a formal charge issued by a grand jury. Charges are generally based on felonies. During a preliminary hearing, the prosecutor is able to use hearsay to prove the defendant’s guilt. Sometimes, a trial is postponed by the judge or continued by the defendant.
Courts have the power to review laws and make them invalid if they are unconstitutional. For example, a law is considered unconstitutional if it conflicts with the constitution. It is also possible for a court to strike down a law if it is improperly written.
When a person is accused of a crime, the prosecutor is the government official who tries the case on the government’s behalf. After the trial is completed, the defendant can ask for a review of the case. At this point, the judge will determine whether to let the case continue or to impose a penalty.
The defendant can also appeal a conviction. Appeals are usually filed in a court of appeals, which sits in a panel of three judges. In important cases, the number of judges may expand.
Finally, laws are shaped by the social institutions of the nation. These include the state and federal legislatures. They can be used to regulate activities of businesses, such as the minimum capital requirements for banks. They can also be used to regulate the provision of utilities, such as water and gas.