1. Introduction to Law

Introduction to Law

Playlist – 16 Videos: 41 Minutes


Topics: Learning Material

Introduction to the Legal System
This chapter provides an understanding of how law and the legal system establishes the foundation for a functioning economy. It explores how law originates and focuses on key principles that underlie the legal system. Notably, this chapter discuss the concepts of property, ownership, and enforcement of one’s ownership rights. This brings into consideration the role the law plays in the economic prosperity of a nation. We introduce the two types of legal systems that exist in the United States — the common law and civil law systems — and explain how the common law system is organized. This includes explaining the difference between public and private law. Lastly, we explore the sources of law and the role that the judiciary plays in the US legal system. For further written and video explanation, discussion and practice questions, see Legal System (Intro)

What is "Law"?
The common understanding of law is that it consists of rules and regulations established and enforced by a governing body. In the United States, the governing body is a combination of federal, state, and local governments. While the above definition is accurate, it is important to understand the source or genesis of societal law. Laws are also commonly understood as manifestations of societal norms or beliefs. That is, if society believes that certain rights or procedures should be in place, the representative lawmakers act to bring about a rule effectuating that societal norm in pursuit of the orderly administration of that society. For further written and video explanation, discussion and practice questions, see What is "Law"?

What is "Jurisprudence"?
Jurisprudence generally refers to the ideas or philosophies of law that have developed. Understanding the philosophy behind the existence of law is important for understanding: 1) the justification for legislation, and 2) the judicial reasoning applied when interpreting laws. For further written and video explanation, discussion and practice questions, see What is "Jurisprudence"?

Economic Strength of Nations
A commonly accepted theory about the economic strength of a nation regards the influence of law and the legal system. Many theorist believe that a strong legal system is the foundation for a functioning economy. That is, a strong legal system, through the clear delineation of individual rights and enforcement methods, provides confidence to individuals when undertaking productive activities. In nations with such a system, individuals will trade or undertake transactions with the confidence that they can enforce their rights against the other party. Not having to take extensive measures to protect her interests lowers transaction costs associated with an activity. The result is more and continued business relationships. For further written and video explanation, discussion and practice questions, see Economic Strength of a Nation?

What is the "Rule of Law"?
The rule of law is the orderly passage and execution of laws by a governing body. In the United States, a representative democracy, laws exist to serve or represent the interests of the greatest number of people. Enforcement of the law is done to both maintain order within the community and to create a system in which individuals can be productive. An important aspect of the rule of law is that it applies uniformly to all individuals. That is, the law is not applied selectively to some individuals and not others. If laws are applied generally to all individuals, there is little reason or motivation for the use of law to oppress or gain advantage over others. A functioning rule of law system is essential for economic productivity. Again, the just and uniform application of law across the population creates trust and confidence . Individuals can rest assured that their rights will be protected through the elimination of any unfair advantages or disadvantages to individuals under the law. For further written and video explanation, discussion and practice questions, see What is the "Rule of Law"?

"Property" and "Property Rights" Defined
Most people understand property to be a physical item. The definition of property, however, is far broader than something that you can see or hold in your hand. Property is, more precisely, an individual’s rights with regard to something in existence. Property includes all of the commonly understood rights associated with physical or intangible things, such as: the right of possession (to the exclusion of others), the right of use, the right to sell or transfer, or the right to destroy. For further written and video explanation, discussion and practice questions, see What is "property law" or "property rights?

What is "Ownership"?
Ownership is a concept closely related to property. It is the legally recognized and enforceable rights that a person has to property. This concept is important because it is possible to possess property and not own it. For example, you find a valuable item on the side of the road and you cannot determine the owner. You possess the property, but you do not own it. Likewise, it is possible to own property and not possess it. Think of a situation in which you lend one of your physical possessions to a neighbor. Your neighbor has possession of the property, but you retain ownership. Ownership of property (or the bundle of rights that is property) is a form or legally provided assurance. The legal system affords the owner a claim of right that cannot be infringed upon by others without violating the law. Violating or infringing upon one’s property rights allows the property owner to use legal channels to enforce her rights (e.g., the police or court system). For further written and video explanation, discussion and practice questions, see What is "ownership"?

What is the purpose of "Property Rights"?
There are numerous theories regarding the reason or justification for the legal system recognizing property ownership rights. Some theories adopt a pessimistic view of human nature and the intentions of those to exclude others from their resources. Other less cynical theories attribute ownership rights with incentivizing individuals to undertake activities that benefit society at large. That is, ownership of property incentivizes individuals to increase productivity and create new resources, which ultimately benefits society. For further written and video explanation, discussion and practice questions, see Why recognize property rights?

How the Law Protects "Property Rights"?
The Constitution (and all amendments thereto) provides the basic structure for the Federal Government. It also delineates the rights of all US citizens. These rights can be viewed as a form of property that is protected against government infringement. The structural provisions of the Constitution allow for the establishment of a legal system that further protects and promotes individual rights. The federal, state, and local governments create and enforce laws that flow from these protections. For further written and video explanation, discussion and practice questions, see How the law protects property rights?

"Common Law" vs "Civil Law"
Two legal systems exist within the United States, the common law system and the civil law system. Forty-nine of the fifty US States exclusively follow the common law system. Louisiana is the one US state that recognizes common law and civil law systems. Despite the dominance of the common law system within the United States, it is important to understand the civil law system - as many foreign legal systems are based in civil law. For further written and video explanation, discussion and practice questions, see What are the "common law" and "civil law" systems?

"Public Law and Private Law"
The distinction between public law and private law concerns who the law directly governs or affects. Public law consists of laws aimed at regulating the function of society. The main areas of public law are constitutional law, administrative law, and criminal law. Private law concerns the legal relationships between individuals. The main areas of private law are property law, contract law, and tort law. For further written and video explanation, discussion and practice questions, see What is "public law" and "private law"?

"Civil Law" and "Criminal Law"
Do not be confused by the various uses of the word civil within the legal system. Civil law may refer to a system of law, but it generally refers to civil actions — which are legal actions between individuals. In this case, it means suing or bringing a lawsuit against an individual, a business, or a governmental body. Criminal law, in contrast, refers to the rules and procedures for enforcing those rules prohibiting “bad acts” of individuals within the governing body’s jurisdiction. While civil actions seek compensation for losses or an order from the court restricting certain conduct, criminal actions seek to punish individuals for violating a criminal law. Often, an individual’s actions will subject her to a criminal prosecution by the government as well as a civil action by an injured party. For further written and video explanation, discussion and practice questions, see What is "civil law" and "criminal law"?

"Substantive" vs "Procedural Law"
A substantive law defines a legal relationship or prohibits certain conduct. That is, it says what you can or cannot do. For example, a state that says, “though shalt not steal”. This would be a substantive law. Procedural law, on the other hand, dictates how the substantive law is administered or carried out. For example, a state statute reads, “an individual has 30 days to file a response to a civil complaint.” This is a procedural law dictating how to carry out a civil action. For further written and video explanation, discussion and practice questions, see What is "substantive law" and "procedural law"?

"State Law" and "Federal Law"
The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Congress passes federal acts made up of statutes that are published in the Federal Code of Statutes. Federal agencies pass administrative regulations as the procedural rules for executing the statutes. These regulations are published in the Code of Federal Regulations. Congress authorizes treaties with foreign nations and the President issues executive orders that also have the force and effect of law. State legal systems are quite similar to the federal legal system. State law is derived from the State’s Constitution. State legislatures pass statutes and administrative agencies adopt regulations to carry out these statutes. States authorize local governments to pass local ordinances and to enforce state law. In state and federal systems, the judiciary provides appellate opinions that have the same legal force in that jurisdiction as the laws being interpreted. In terms of legal priority, federal law is superior to state law, and state law is superior to local law. The state may regulate any area of law not specifically reserved to or preempted by federal law. State constitutions specifically designate the areas of law that localities can regulate. For further written and video explanation, discussion and practice questions, see Sources of state and federal law?

Role of the Judiciary in the Legal System
The judicial branch is charged with adjudicating disputes under the law and reviewing the laws passed by the legislative branch and executed by the executive branch. Below is a step-by-step synopsis of the role played by the judiciary in the legal system and an introduction to how the judiciary is a check on the power of the legislative and executive branches. The judiciary ensures that the laws passed by the legislative branch do not run afoul of the rights granted to individuals under the Constitution. Further, it checks the execution of those laws by the executive branch. A law that is found to be unconstitutional is struck down. Congress may then go through the process of drafting a new law. Likewise, if an executive action is deemed unconstitutional, the executive must develop a new manner of executing the law that falls within the guidelines of the court’s decision. For further written and video explanation, discussion and practice questions, see Role of Judiciary in the legal system?

Law, Business, and Business Entities
Business entities exist pursuant to state laws recognizing their existence. They are efficient mechanisms through which to carry on business. They allow for greater economic productivity and this provides an overall benefit to society. The business entity is generally considered to be separate being from its owners or employees. The concept is commonly known as “corporate personhood”. Businesses have rights similar to those of individuals that cannot be infringed. Likewise, businesses cannot infringe upon the rights of others without facing criminal or civil liability. A business acts through its agents (owners, directors, employees, etc.) and can enforce its rights or be found liable or guilty in civil or criminal proceedings. Because of the unique nature of business entities, the government undertakes considerable efforts to prevent the use of business entities to harm individuals. Much of the material covered in this text focuses on the laws and regulations that the government uses to control the activity of businesses and the individuals associated with those businesses. For further written and video explanation, discussion and practice questions, see Business activity and legal entities?


Flash Card - Study Practice

Q1
Laws are also commonly understood as manifestations of _______.

A1
Universal Truths, Social Norms or Beliefs, Rules from the Powerful

Resource Video: https://thebusinessprofessor.com/law/

Q2
The inherent authority of a court to order done what is fair is known as the power of ________?

A2

Q3
_________ generally refers to the ideas or philosophies of law that have developed.

Q4
Understanding the philosophy behind the existence of law is important for understanding

A4
A4. 1) Justification for Legislation and 2) Judicial Reasoning applied when interpreting laws

Resource Video: https://thebusinessprofessor.com/what-is-jurisprudence/

Q5
This legal philosophy relies on reason drawn from perceived universal moral principles in order to explain laws.

Q6
This legal philosophy looks at laws as the legal standards of conduct outlined by governments.

Q7
This view recognizes law as the embodiment of human cultures and traditions.

Q8
This legal philosophy sees law as an ever-evolving embodiment of societies beliefs.

Q9
This philosophy goes behind the legal principle to look at what the administrators of law do or are thinking as they carry out their roles.

Q10
The legal system is considered by many to be a foundation of a nation’s economic strength?

TRUE or FALSE

A10
TRUE

Q11
The legal system provides confidence to individuals when undertaking productive activities, through ______.

A11
Clear delineation or understanding of individual rights; Ability to enforce one’s rights against others

Resource Video: https://thebusinessprofessor.com/law-and-economic-strength/

Q12
Not having to take extensive measures to protect one’s interests facilitates trade by ______________?

A12
Lowering Transaction Costs

Resource Video: https://thebusinessprofessor.com/law-and-economic-strength/

Q13
_________ is the orderly passage and execution of laws by a governing body.

Q14
An important aspect of the rule of law is that it ____________.

A14
Applies Uniformly to All Individuals

Resource Video: https://thebusinessprofessor.com/what-is-the-rule-of-law/

Q15
The just and uniform application of law across the population creates ___________.

A15

Q16
____________ eliminates unfair advantages or disadvantages to individuals under the law.

Q17
________ is an individual’s rights with regard to something in existence.

Q18
Commonly understood rights associated with physical or intangible things (property rights) include:

A18
the right of possession (to the exclusion of others), the right of use, the right to sell or transfer, or the right to destroy.

Resource Video: https://thebusinessprofessor.com/what-is-property/

Q19
___________ is the legally recognized and enforceable rights that a person has to property.

Q20
It is possible to possess property and not own it.

True or False

Q21
It is possible to own property and not possess it.

Q22
How does the legal system affords the owner a claim of right in property?

A22
Criminal sanctions and civil causes of action.

Resource Video: https://thebusinessprofessor.com/purpose-of-ownership-rights-in-property/

Q23
_________ Are resources owned by the government.

Q24
_________ is resources owned by an individual or entity.

Q25
Ownership rights with incentivizing individuals to _____________.

A25
incentivizes individuals to increase productivity, creates new resources

Resource Video: https://thebusinessprofessor.com/justification-for-recognizing-property-rights/

Q26
Constitutional rights can be viewed as a form of _______ that is protected against government infringement.

Q27
How does the federal, state, and local governments promote property rights?

A27
By passing criminal laws, contract laws, tort laws, property laws, and recognizing business entities.

Resource Video: https://thebusinessprofessor.com/why-does-the-legal-system-promote-property-rights/

Q28
The _______ system is “code-based” system of laws.

Q29
Under the __________ system, judicial interpretation does not constitute “precedent” that binds the court (or any subordinate courts) in future trials.

Q30
The _________ system centers on the judicial interpretation of statutes.

Q31
In this type of legal system, opinions serve as precedent for the court and any subordinate courts within that jurisdiction.

Q32
In Latin, this legal phrase means “let the decision stand”.

Q33
The distinction between public law and private law concerns ____________.

A33
who the law directly governs or affects.

Resource Video: https://thebusinessprofessor.com/public-law-vs-private-law/

Q34
__________ law consists of laws aimed at regulating the function of society.

Q35
The following are the main areas of public law.

A35
Constitutional law, Administrative law, and Criminal law

Resource Video: https://thebusinessprofessor.com/public-law-vs-private-law/

Q36
__________ law concerns the legal relationships between individuals.

Q37
The main areas of private law are __________?

A37
Property law, Contract law, and Tort law

Resource Video: https://thebusinessprofessor.com/public-law-vs-private-law/

Q38
_______ law concerns suing or bringing a lawsuit against an individual, a business, or a governmental body.

Q39
__________ law refers to the rules and procedures for enforcing those rules prohibiting “bad acts” of individuals within the governing body’s jurisdiction.

Q40
_________ law defines a legal relationship or prohibits certain conduct.

Q41
_________ law dictates how the substantive law is administered or carried out.

Q42
_______ is the supreme law of the land.

Q43
Federal acts made up of statutes that are published in the __________.

Q44
Federal agencies develop ___________ as the procedural rules for executing the statutes.

Q45
Federal regulations are published in the ______________.

Q46
Congressional treaties and executive orders have the force and effect of law.

Q47
State legislatures pass statutes and administrative agencies adopt regulations to carry out these statutes?

Q48
The judiciary provides appellate opinions that have the same legal force in that jurisdiction as the laws being interpreted.

Q49
In terms of legal priority: federal law is superior to state law.

True or False

Q50
The state may regulate any area of law not specifically reserved to or preempted by federal law.

True or False

Q51
What is the hierarchy of federal, state, and local laws?

A51
US Constitution and Amendments

  • Federal Statutes & Common-Law Interpretations
  • Federal Regulations
  • Treaties & Executive Orders
  • State Constitutions
  • State Statutes & Common-Law Interpretations
  • State Regulations
  • Local Ordinances

Resource Video: https://thebusinessprofessor.com/sources-of-federal-state-and-local-law/

Q52
The judicial branch is charged with __________.

A52
Adjudicating disputes, reviewing the laws passed by the legislative branch, reviewing the execution of laws by the executive branch.

Resource Video: https://thebusinessprofessor.com/role-of-the-judiciary-in-the-legal-system/

Q53
Federal and state _________ courts serve as the mechanism for enforcing the law.

Q54
The government enforces criminal laws against individuals (including businesses)?

True or False

Q55
Individuals enforce their rights against other individuals through civil trial.

True or False

Q56
The trial judge is tasked with:

A56
Enforcing the procedural laws governing the trial process (such as the timing and presentation of evidence);

Instructing the jury on the substantive law to be applied in a case).

Resource Video: https://thebusinessprofessor.com/role-of-the-judiciary-in-the-legal-system/

Q57
The ________ is the fact-finder and determines a defendant’s guilt or liability.

Q58
If the defendant in a criminal trial or both parties in a civil trial so elect, the trial judge will also serve as fact finder?

Q59
What is the role of the appellate court?

A59
Review the erroneous application of procedural law,

Review the erroneous application of substantive law,

Determine whether the law applied in the case is unconstitutional

Resource Video: https://thebusinessprofessor.com/role-of-the-judiciary-in-the-legal-system/

Q60
The appellate court opinion becomes precedent for the court and all subordinate courts in that jurisdiction.

Q61
Upon review of a trial court decision, the appellate court has the authority to:

A61
Reduce a judgment or verdict; Overturn a case; and Remanded to the trial court

Resource Video: https://thebusinessprofessor.com/role-of-the-judiciary-in-the-legal-system/

Q62
The US Supreme Court has ________ jurisdiction to hear any disputes or controversies between states.

Q63
The US Supreme Court has original, but not exclusive, jurisdiction to hear these types of cases:

A63
Where ambassadors, public ministers, or consuls of foreign states are a party; Disputes between the US Government and a state government; Actions by a state against citizens of another states.)

Resource Video: https://thebusinessprofessor.com/role-of-the-judiciary-in-the-legal-system/

Q64
The Supreme Court rarely exercises its original jurisdiction.

True or False

Q65
Appeals of cases before the Federal Circuit Courts of Appeal and any state supreme court are appealed to _________.

Q66
Generally, the US Supreme court will only hear appeals of state supreme court decisions that ________.

A66
Allegedly violate the Appellant’s constitutional rights

Resource Video: https://thebusinessprofessor.com/role-of-the-judiciary-in-the-legal-system/

Q67
A state supreme court may hear appeals from: ____________

A67
Lower state appellate court; State trial courts

Resource Video: https://thebusinessprofessor.com/role-of-the-judiciary-in-the-legal-system/

Q68
The state supreme court (state cases) or US Supreme Court (federal cases) may direct that a trial court decision be appealed directly to it, through a ______.

Q69
Business entities exist pursuant to _________.

A69
State laws recognizing their existence

Resource Video: https://thebusinessprofessor.com/legal-system-allows-for-business-entities/

Q70
The benefits of governments recognizing business entities include:

A70
Efficient mechanisms through which to carry on business

Certainty in business transactions

Allow for greater economic productivity

 

Resource Video: https://thebusinessprofessor.com/legal-system-allows-for-business-entities/

Q71
Businesses have Constitutional rights similar to those of individuals that cannot be infringed.

True or False

Q72
Businesses cannot infringe upon the rights of others without facing criminal or civil liability.

True or False



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