Law is an organized system of rules developed and enforced by governmental or social institutions to govern behavior, often with an emphasis on the protection of individual rights. It is perhaps best defined as an art and a science of civic justice. The scope and function of law vary greatly from area to area. In most societies, the law is used to establish and maintain certain frameworks that deal with the legal responsibilities and duties of individuals, groups and organizations. It is also used to provide for dispute resolution between individuals, groups and organizations. In this regard, the law is considered as an objective and progressive discipline that aims at establishing and maintaining a just and equitable society.
The development of law arises from the need to protect certain groups from other groups and individuals. At times, laws are enacted to override the provisions found in the constitution of a country or state. The decisions of judges are imbibed with public policy considerations which require the formulation of just and equitable laws. The concept of just and equitable laws is not an exact science, as it is subjective. The concept of just and equitable laws is considered by some to be a metaphysical notion, while others hold it to be an idea of social science. In fact, some philosophers have rejected the concept of law altogether, on the grounds that it is an arbitrary and capricious conception, derived from nothing.
However, the importance of law cannot be neglected, especially in today’s highly diverse and interdependent societies. The law has developed to serve the purposes of not only the society, but also of individuals. Civil and criminal laws, as well as corporate laws are regulated by the courts. And the role of the courts is largely to protect rights and to ensure compliance with the legal obligations arising out of contracts. Consequently, the courts can have significant impact on public policy.
The importance of law cannot be undervalued, especially in the context of private dispute resolution. A common law basis provides a forum for disputes involving the associations of people in a nation. Common law jurisdictions provide a level of security and predictability to the individual. The nature of private law is such that no public body has the power to interfere in its operation. That is why, under common law systems, disputes are generally handled through private arbitration bodies, such as family courts, state courts, probate courts, and bar associations.
It is important to note that public law often serves a higher function than private law in helping individuals who have been victims of injustice and who need justice on a broader scale. Personal injury lawsuits give voice to the voiceless and ensure that wrongdoers are punished, rather than remaining unpunished. But personal injury claims do not always succeed; as is commonly the case in our society, the courts may not always be as generous as one would hope. But with the exception of summary judgment motions, which are subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts, most plaintiffs’ and defendants’ civil and criminal lawsuits will go to trial.
Most people have heard of common-law courts, but may not be aware that there are two distinct types of courts: federal and state courts. Federal courts, which hear cases brought by the United States government itself, and state courts, which hear cases that have involved the state, are commonly referred to as federal courts and state courts respectively. In modern times, the U.S. Constitution has placed some limitations on what type of “Courts of Record” the federal courts may have. The U.S. Supreme Court, for instance, has indicated that there must be some limitation on the power of the federal courts to act.