Law is the body of rules that governs a society. Its purpose is to keep people safe and to ensure that everyone follows the same rules of conduct. It also provides social order and justice for individuals and groups, and protects the rights of minorities and political opponents.
Some common types of law are criminal law, civil law, and administrative law. Each of these systems has different functions, but they share four universal principles: the rule of law; equality; fairness; and accountability.
The rule of law means that governments, courts, and private actors are accountable under the law, which is clear, publicized, and stable. It is applied evenly, ensuring that human rights are respected as well as property, contract, and procedural rights.
It is accessible, fair, and efficient to the average citizen. It is delivered timely by competent, ethical, and independent representatives and neutrals who have adequate resources and reflect the makeup of the communities they serve.
In the United States, the rule of law is embodied in the Constitution, which is an internationally recognized document that sets out the basic rights and responsibilities of citizens. It also includes the separation of powers, and the principle that government must be responsive to the will of the people.
Some laws are enacted through the legislative process, while others are created by judges and lawyers in court. The differences between the two are important, and affect how a country’s law is practiced.
Legislative law is a system where rules are written down, usually in statutes or codes, and then enforced by the legislature. Decisions by judges and barristers are called “judicial law,” and are acknowledged as valid on equal footing with statutes and regulations that are adopted by the legislature.
Judicial decisions often have a long record of precedent, or stare decisis, which means that they are considered to be binding on lower courts and future courts. This can help to make sure that cases reach the same result, even if the courts make a different decision in a later case.
There are several kinds of laws, including criminal law, which deals with crimes such as stealing and murder. The punishment for breaking a law is generally set by the law, and may be fines or imprisonment.
It also includes family law, inheritance law, and medical jurisprudence. It covers a wide range of issues, from child custody to medical malpractice.
Commercial law deals with contracts and property, as well as the regulation of the sale of goods and services. This branch of law traces its roots back to the medieval Lex Mercatoria, which defined contracts as “the legal relationship between a seller and a buyer.”
In most countries, it is illegal to discriminate in the hiring, firing or promotion of employees on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation and pregnancy), national origin, age, disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate in deciding which workers should be laid off and whether or not to recall them after a layoff.