The Main Sources of Law in the United States

Constitutions: They specify how governments are to be constituted, as well as their powers and responsibilities. Constitutions can also protect individual liberties. The first three articles of the Federal Constitution, for example, are devoted to defining the federal government’s form and scope, whereas the first 10 amendments (the “Bill of Rights”) are primarily concerned with defending individual liberties. Because a constitution serves as the template for the entire government, everything it does must be following it. Any action taken by any component of the government that violates the Constitution is deemed “unconstitutional” and must be overturned.

Federal and state statutes: Statutory law is an essential law source in a legal system, and the U.S. Congress enacted federal statutes apply to all states. The U.S. Code, separated into titles, handles a specific issue and publishes federal laws enacted during a parliamentary session. They control behavior inside a state, but they need to provide a way to governmental statutes in the event of a disagreement.

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Administrative regulations: The rules produced by state or central government authorities are known as administrative regulations. Congress gives federal agencies the capacity to govern and implement regulations by “enabling” legislation that authorizes and determines the extent of their authorization. There are two types of rulemaking that are used to create administrative regulations: informal and formal rulemaking. A firm offers a rule through informal rulemaking, the public submits written comments, and the firm determines how to establish a final rule. The proponent of a rule bears the burden of proving that the essential steps were taken according to that Act. As a result, enacting formal rules can be expensive and time-consuming.

Case law and judicial opinions: Case law, or judge-made law, is also called the “common law.” When a court issues a judgment or an “opinion,” it establishes a precedent that needs to be followed in the following factual situations. The notion of stare decisis is applied when a court relies on precedent in concluding. There are trial courts and appellate courts in the federal court system. The “circuit” courts of appeal are appellate courts to which trial court rulings can be appealed.

Court Interpretation

Laws are created broadly enough to apply to several scenarios because governments cannot write laws for every potential factual occurrence. However, the circumstances under which a law may apply are not always precise. Statutory interpretation must be made by the courts to ascertain the purpose of the legislature. The courts must consider the following points:

Binding precedent: The court must adhere to that interpretation where the law has been construed in a particular way by a court with direct appellate jurisdiction over the court in question

Actual language: Considerable review and planning resulted in most of the rules. As a result, courts give enormous weight to the actual words chosen by the legislator.

Legislative history: When a statute’s text is unclear, courts frequently consult the statute’s legislative history, if one is available. As previously stated, statutes are typically contested before being passed, and these arguments are frequently documented. The legislative history includes reports from committees and subcommittees. The recent legislative history is readily available at the federal level; however, it can be scarce at the state level.

Context, general and specific: The situations in which the law was enacted, the purpose, and other same laws were continuously assessed by courts. In determining public policy, the reasons for enacting the law at the time it was enacted may also be pertinent.

Treatment by other courts: While considering the issue, these decisions may be instructive to the trial courts that may have dealt with the same issue, and the court will review other similar decisions. These judgments can come from the same or a separate jurisdiction, albeit decisions from other countries are less compelling.

Legal treatises and other scholarly literature: Before the courts evaluate statutes, legal scholars continuously review them; therefore, such research is found helpful in many courts’ interpretations.

Other jurisdictions’ statutes: Information on the current legislation may be offered by comparing the same rules in other states.

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