An Overview of Our Legal System

Essay by tbeattyUniversity, Bachelor's September 2004

download word file, 1 pages 3.3

In the United States, the two prominent theories about the underlying purpose of law are consensus theory and conflict theory. the basic purpose of our legal system is to ensure fairness in balancing individual and social rights and needs,while preventing excessive government power. this balance between individual and social rights and needs is represented by the scales of justice.

Our legal system has its roots in the common law of England, the early English judge-made law, based on custom and tradition, that was followed throughout the country. As a term in american law, common law is synonymous with case law. Inherent in the common law was the principle of stare decisis. Stare decisis requires that precedent set in one case be followed in all cases having similar circumstances, thus assuring consistency in the law.

The Constitution ensures individual rights by limiting government power. and although the law, in fairness, must be consistent, it is also flexible.

American lae is considered a living law because it can change along with society. In addition to common law, our legal system also relies upon case lae, statutory law-that is, law passed by legislature or governing bodies-and constitutional law.

Our legal system categorizes offenses into two specfic areas: civil and criminal. Civil laws deal with personal matters and wrongs against individuals-called torts. Criminal law deal with wrongs against society-called crimes. An act may be both a tort and a crime.

When civil or criminal laws are broken, the courts' two main function are to settle controversies between parties and to decide the rule of law that apply in specific cases. The American legal system is made up of a number of necessary components. It is basically a two-tiered system consisting os state and federal courts.

Each tier includes specific levels of courts.