Law is the set of rules created by a society or group that governs its members’ actions and provides punishments for those who break them. The precise nature of law is the subject of much debate and there are many different ideas about what it should be. Some people argue that it is a system of social control, while others believe that it is a set of principles for achieving justice.
There are a number of different types of laws, such as criminal, civil and administrative law. Each type of law governs a different area of life. For example, criminal law is the set of rules that are enacted and enforced to punish those who commit crimes. Civil law is the set of rules that govern disputes between individuals. Administrative law is the set of rules that are formulated and enforced to regulate activities.
The purpose of law is to promote stability and peace, protect minorities from majorities, and allow for the orderly process of social change. Many nations have legal systems that serve these purposes better than others. In countries that are not democratized, the law may be used by the government to oppress political opponents or minorities. In some cases, it may also be used to justify war or other unjust acts.
Laws are enforced by a variety of institutions, including the police, courts and prosecutors. Those who work in the law are known as lawyers or judges. They are the people who advise citizens about their rights, represent them in court and give decisions and punishments. There are many careers in the law, and a law degree is becoming increasingly popular among young people.
A good law student needs to know the vocabulary of the legal system. Some of the most important words include:
arraignment – The first step in a court trial, in which the defendant is told about the charges against him or her and asked to enter a plea.
discovery – The examination, before trial, of facts and documents in possession of the opposing party to help the lawyer prepare for the case.
counterclaim – A statement by the defendant that contradicts the plaintiff’s claims. Defendants are allowed to make counterclaims in most civil cases.
chief judge – The head of the judiciary branch of a country or region, usually overseeing all administrative functions and deciding cases.
court reporter – An official who makes a word-for-word record of court proceedings and produces a transcript of those proceedings upon request.
conviction – A judgment by a jury or a judge that finds someone guilty of a crime.
The rule of law is the principle that all persons and institutions, public and private, are subject to the same laws, publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated. The rule of law requires measures to ensure adherence to the principles of supremacy of the law, equality before the law, accountability to the law, participation in decision-making, separation of powers, legal certainty, avoidance of arbitrariness and procedural and legal transparency.