The Importance of Law
Law is a central concept that influences politics, economics, history and society in many different ways. It raises important and complex issues concerning equality, fairness and justice. Law is also a source of scholarly inquiry in the fields of legal history, philosophy, sociology and economic analysis.
Legal systems differ greatly across nations. There are two broad categories: civil law jurisdictions that follow a system of laws codified by the legislature, and common law jurisdictions that rely on case law precedent. Civil law jurisdictions are found on all continents, while common law systems are used in the majority of the world.
The principal purposes of the law are to establish standards, maintain order, resolve disputes and protect liberties and rights. It is essential for democracy, the economy and human well-being. The lack of democracy and the absence of laws that respect human rights and freedoms are major causes of conflict around the world.
Despite the importance of law, it is not easy to define or describe. The main reason is that laws have a normative (prescriptive) character and are therefore deprived of the objective status enjoyed by empirical science (such as the law of gravity) or social science (such as the law of supply and demand).
As such, there is a wide gap between the ideals of the legal community and the reality of the law. The judicial community is constantly seeking the best way to balance competing values such as the need for uniformity of results, the requirement that all defendants receive equal treatment and the desire to ensure that trials are not biased.
It is not surprising that these conflicts are reflected in the language of the law itself. Some examples include:
The term inculpatory evidence refers to any evidence that tends to show that a defendant has committed a crime. An indictment is a formal statement by a grand jury that alleges a criminal act and provides enough information to justify having a trial.
A transcript is a written record of what was said during a hearing, trial or conversation. A transcript may be used for various purposes such as a legal proceeding, a scientific study or an oral history project.
A temporary restraining order, or TRO, is a court order that stops someone from doing something that could cause irreparable harm or a violation of the law. It is similar to a subpoena, but it is usually issued without notice or a chance to defend against it.
The rule of law is the principle that all persons and entities, public and private, are subject to a clear and consistent set of rules. It is based on the principles of supremacy of law, equality before the law and accountability to the law, separation of powers, participation in decision-making, and legal certainty and transparency. It is also related to the idea that all people are created equal and that the government should serve and protect its citizens.