The law is basically law made and enforced by governmental or social institutions to govern behavior, with an exact definition still a matter of lifelong debate. It can be defined as the art and science of civil law. Civil law consists of laws and acts of a body of law administered by government agencies and bodies to ensure certain levels of equality in the distribution of rights and opportunities to individuals. The legal system that comprises the body of civil law governs disputes between private parties and organizations within the private sector, including government agencies and bodies.
Civil laws are derived from the constitution of a country. These include the fundamental and common laws, which are also known as general laws, public laws, privileges and immunities, and privileges and immunities of individuals, corporations, and public authorities affecting the private economy. Civil law, together with private law, form a body of law referred to as federal law. The U.S. constitution also includes a separate branch of civil law known as U.S. courts, which handles cases involving U.S. citizens, corporations, foreign governments, and other government agencies.
Civil codes and court decisions derive from several sources. The federal constitution and federal laws generally set out the basis for most private lawsuits, but private parties may file suits against the government, the executive, or the military for violations of the constitution or laws. Civil laws that deal with private parties usually deal with issues such as damages, contracts, trusts, property rights, and negligence. They also cover controversial executive orders, directives, and other activities not covered by other branches of government. Civil codes are also written about corporations, partnerships, and limited liability. When dealing with federal statutes, lawyers refer to cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, lower court decisions, and case history books.
The most well-known body of law is the U.S. Congress. Civil courts deal with most legislative and regulatory matters that fall under common law. Federal agencies and the courts interpret and apply statutory law; however, Congress can sometimes change or alter these statutes through enacted laws called reconciliation acts.
The U.S. Supreme Court decides most cases decided below the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and on appeal. Two other courts of appeal are the U.S. Circuit for the Federal District and the U.S. Circuit for the Eastern District of Texas. Each appeals court upholds federal laws and decisions, construe the legislative bills passed by the U.S. Congress, and rehear cases that have been heard by lower courts. The Supreme Court has no precedents in common law jurisdictions.
In most of the states, most law firms practice within one or two types of law. Some specialize in helping clients litigate in state or federal courts; some work exclusively with clients who sue in federal courts. A few law firms, however, offer all types of legal services to their clients, including those who file suits in federal court and are subsequently sues in state courts. While many firms will choose to practice exclusively in one or two types of law, a growing number of law firms are beginning to offer all-inclusive services to suitcases that result in federal court proceedings. This type of all-inclusive service is sometimes referred to as “all-court” filing.
Most jurisdictions recognize two-thirds limitations on statutes as to time. As a result, a federal law may restrict a statutory limitation on a case to two-thirds of one calendar year. The courts may likewise limit the time within which a plaintiff must file a complaint. The federal constitution is silent on whether a case must be tried in federal court. Some jurisdictions, like California, have been interpreting the federal constitution since the drafting of the constitution in 1787.
The federal constitution generally requires that the federal courts interpret statutes construe according to “the common man.” This means that while the legislature may attempt to distinguish between classes of laws in enacting new laws, the courts have no prerogative as to the meaning of statutory terms. To this end, when the legislature purports to limit the operation of a statute to a class of laws, the courts may refuse to apply that legislature’s decision retroactively to other classes of cases. Thus, if Congress attempts to limit the enforcement of certain statutes to a class of laws that has existed before Congress enacted the statute, the courts will refuse to apply the legislature’s action retroactively.