Law is a systematic system of laws developed and enforced by governmental or civic bodies to socially regulate behavior in accordance with its specific definition; a matter of long standing debate. It can be variously defined as the art and science of civil law. Civil law includes laws that affect the legal status of individuals, including civil marriage, child custody, divorce, landlord and tenant relations, trusts, corporations, penal code, labor laws etc. The field of civil law is the most expansive, because it covers almost all the issues that concern individual citizens. Civil law is also the most complicated, because there are many branches and sub-branches, which are concerned with slightly narrower aspects of everyday life.

Historically, civil law was developed in response to the regulating system of the English monarchy; the concept of equity became an important feature of the legal system. In the United States, the revolution prompted the adoption of a uniform civil code throughout the country. But although this code did not constitute a legal code per se, it did provide standards of behavior for all citizens, including rights to conduct business and hold property. Civil rights were not considered as valuable as other rights at that time, and these rights were not protected by the Bill of Rights.

A legislature generally makes laws that address various matters affecting individuals. Legislation is either enacted by the legislative body itself, or by a court acting on behalf of the legislative body. A court, in order to issue a law, must either interpret and decide the meaning of a constitution or state constitutions, or decide for itself what kind of laws are necessary to resolve disputes or provide an orderly society.

Civil laws tend to be more complex than criminal laws, because they deal with private rights such as speech, press, religion, contract, and so on. Civil laws were initially created to govern the relationship between private parties within a community, such as a community of towns, counties, states, or nations. Although some areas of the US have developed more highly developed criminal justice systems, the rest of the US still relies on the application of common law, including common law civil law.

In terms of resolving disputes, the courts, which are empowered by the state to administer justice within a community, utilize several types of law. A number of legal systems utilize common law to solve disputes, while many others utilize judicial decisions, including common law juries, divorce decrees, and imprisonment. In addition, the United States government reserves the right to use non-governmental agencies to settle legal disputes.

There are two main branches of American law: federal law and state law. Federal law is the body of law that governs the administration of criminal justice in the US. Unlike civil law, criminal law does not require a jury trial. The most prominent criminal law system in the US is the criminal justice system of the Department of Justice, which is headed by Associate Attorney General John Van de Kamp. All other US attorneys perform under the supervision of this department.

By Arlene Huff

Arlene Huff is the founding member of Golden State Online. Before that She was a general assignment reporter. A native Californian, she graduated from the University of California with a degree in medical anthropology and global health. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

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