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Sources of law is a legal term that refers to the authorities by which law is made. There are a number of different sources that are used to define the creation and force of law, though not all are used equally. Some examples of sources include legislation, government regulation, court decisions, and custom.
Constitutions are legislative documents that are a primary source of law in many regions. They are typically the highest law of the land, meaning that state or regional laws cannot conflict with a constitutional statute. States may also have constitutions, which local laws cannot conflict with. Most modern countries have a written constitution, though some, like New Zealand and the United Kingdom, have constitutions that are uncodified, meaning that they have grown and changed over time and include both written and unwritten sources.
Common law is one of the major sources of law that has been in use for nearly 1,000 years. This type of law is based on judges' decisions as well as legislation deeming certain actions illegal. Common law may dictate the specific laws and penalties of certain crimes, including murder, rape, and theft. One common concept in this important source of law is that of precedent, which suggests that future courts follow the rulings of prior courts on specific issues.
In addition to constitutions, many governments have the right to create legislation and statutes. Even local organizations such as city councils have the power to create ordinances that affect citywide behavior. These statutes and ordinances are often recognized as sources of laws.
Although discussions of sources of law generally revolve around regional law, there are other types of rule systems and guidelines that cite specific sources. Religion, for instance, often draws on specific important texts and laws handed down by elders in the organization to create codes of behavior and permitted actions. Natural law theorists argue that some laws are built into the fabric of universe itself, guiding both behavior and scientific principles, such as the inability to travel faster than the speed of light.
Custom-based sources of law generally rely on an existing behavior in a population. If, for instance, the entire workforce of a town takes a certain day off work each year, the city council could use that custom to create a law calling that day a public holiday. This type of law dates back at least until the Middle Ages in Europe, when local law would codify rights and responsibilities based on customs that had existed for generations.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the sources of law?
Sources of law are the foundations from which the validity of legal norms derives. Constitutional law, statutory law, case law, administrative regulations, and customary law are included. These sources provide the legal authority and framework for governing and regulating societies.
What constitutes constitutional law?
The corpus of law derived from a written constitution is constitutional law. It establishes the fundamental principles, structures, and powers of government, as well as individual rights and liberties. Constitutional law is the supreme law of the state, directing the operation of the legal system and protecting the rights of citizens.
What is statutory law, exactly?
Statutory law comprises laws enacted by legislative bodies like parliaments and congresses. It addresses numerous aspects of governance, such as criminal offenses, civil rights, contracts, and property. Statutes are enacted through the legislative process and have the force of law, thereby imposing legal obligations on individuals and entities within the jurisdiction.
What exactly is case law?
The corpus of law derived from court decisions, also known as case law, common law, or judicial precedent. When courts interpret and apply laws to particular cases, their decisions establish legal principles that serve as precedents for future cases involving the same issues. Case law is essential to the formation and growth of the legal system because it clarifies statutes, establishes legal doctrines, and guides the interpretation and application of the law.
What are administrative rules and regulations?
Administrative regulations are rules and regulations developed by administrative agencies in order to implement and enforce laws enacted by legislatures. These regulations address particular aspects of governance and provide specific compliance guidelines. The legislature authorizes administrative agencies to create and enforce regulations in areas such as the environment, workplace safety, and financial regulations, among others. Individuals, enterprises, and organizations operating within the applicable jurisdiction must adhere to administrative regulations.