The Basics of Law


Law is a system of rules that governs the behavior of people and imposes certain constraints on their conduct. It is a source of power over individuals, societies and nations, and it shapes politics, economics and history in many ways. The study of law encompasses a wide range of topics that fall into three broad categories, though the subjects often overlap and intertwine:

Criminal law deals with conduct that is seen as harmful to social order and which may lead to punishment by imprisonment or fines. Civil law deals with the resolution of lawsuits (disputes) between individuals or organizations. Laws may be enacted by legislatures in the form of statutes, or by executive decrees and regulations, or they may be established by judges in the form of precedent, which is the case with common law jurisdictions. Laws may also be imposed by religious authorities, as in the case of Sharia law, the most widely practiced religion-based legal system in the world.

A court of appeals – An appellate court is a higher court that reviews the decision made by a lower court or tribunal. A court may decide that the lower tribunal did not follow its own rules of procedure, or it may agree with the ruling but differ with its interpretation of the law or evidence. The party whose request for review is granted is called the appellant.

Evidence – The facts, proof or information that supports a claim or allegation. The term is also used to refer to the judge’s instructions to a jury concerning the law that applies to the facts of a particular case.

Chief judge – The chief judge of a court has primary responsibility for the administration of the court and also judges cases. The choice of a chief judge is generally determined by seniority.

Clerk of court – An officer appointed by a court to oversee the work of the courts and maintains court records. A court may appoint one or more clerks to assist the chief judge.

Defendant – The person who is charged with a crime, usually by the police. A defendant may plead guilty or not guilty to a charge. A convicted defendant is released under supervision after being sentenced as long as he or she obeys all the conditions of his or her release. Prosecutor – A person who tries a criminal case on behalf of the government. A prosecutor can be an attorney, a law enforcement officer or a civilian.

A law professor writes articles on the subject of Law to share her/his knowledge and experience with others, in addition to teaching students about the field. A good article should be well-researched and contain the necessary details to convince readers of its point of view. An excellent article can inspire the reader to take action and create change. It should be written in a way that is easy to understand and comprehensible for the average reader, yet still convey the writer’s ideas clearly.