The law is a system of rules and regulations set by a state, regulating the behavior of its citizens. It consists of both positive and negative law, or commands and prohibitions. Law defines what is right and wrong, imposes order on people, and establishes standards for social change. It is also an institution that shapes politics, economics, history and culture.
A legal system may include a constitution, written or tacit, that defines the fundamental principles of the government and encodes its citizens’ rights. It can also include a court of appeals or supreme court that reviews and interprets the laws of a country. In a nation, the law serves to keep the peace, maintain order and the status quo, preserve individual rights, protect minorities against majorities, promote social justice, and provide for the peaceful and ordered transfer of power from one leader to another.
In the legal system, a judge presides over cases, called lawsuits, in which plaintiffs and defendants present their arguments to a panel of judges. Lawyers represent the plaintiffs or defendants and argue their case on their behalf before the judge. Judges issue rulings that are binding on all courts in the jurisdiction. In the United States, judges are usually appointed by a governor and have to earn their judicial credentials by studying law. They may have special qualifications such as a PhD in Law, or the title of Esquire or Barrister.
Legal systems vary widely among nations. Some have a centralized court system, while others have multiple branches of government and an independent judiciary. In addition, some laws are secular while others are religious in origin. In addition, there are two primary types of law: natural and positive. Natural law is derived from human reason and views of the nature and constitution of man. Positive law, on the other hand, is derived from divine revelation and natural laws.
A general definition of the rule of law is that all persons, including governments, private institutions and individuals, are accountable under laws that are publicly promulgated, evenly enforced and independently adjudicated, ensuring adherence to international human rights norms and standards. This concept also implies that the processes by which the law is adopted, administered and adjudicated are accessible, fair and efficient. It also requires separation of powers, participation in decision-making and legal transparency.