Substantive and Procedural Law

Cite this article as:"Substantive and Procedural Law," in The Business Professor, updated January 1, 2015, last accessed May 25, 2020,
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Substantive Law and Procedural Law
What is Substantive Law? What is Procedural Law?

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What is “substantive law” and “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.

Discussion: What type of law says that you cannot intentionally take someone else’s property? What type of law says that you have to file a legal action, if at all, within 2 years of learning of the tortious conduct (legal violation)?

Discussion Input

  • Under criminal law, larceny is similar to “theft” in many jurisdictions—taking one’s property without the use of force. Larceny, and other forms of property crime are placed under the category of theft in criminal law. A person will be convicted for larceny if it is proven that there was unlawful taking of someone else’s property, taking was done without the consent of the owner, and that there was an intention to permanently deprive the owner of his property. Under the law of torts, there are several acts that have been put in place to govern claims against tortious conduct. One of them is the limitation period, within which a claim can be made or legal action taken in regard to a tortious act. Different states will have different limitation periods. Some states require that legal action be taken against an offender for a tort within two years of learning of the conduct. Some states extend this to even six years, after which you lose the right to take legal action against an offender.

Academic Research

Belohlavek, Alexander J., Extent of Procedural and Substantive Law in Arbitration and Litigation (November 20, 2015). Alternative means of conflict resolution in business – Verslas ir Alternatyvus ginčų sprendimo budai, pp. 31-57, Kazimiero Simonavičiaus Universitetas, Vilnius/Lithuania, 2015, ISBN: 978-609-95634-1-1. Available at SSRN:

Deak, Daniel, Procedural Versus Substantive Law: A Balancing Act in the EU (April 1, 2010). Tax Notes International, Vol. 57, No. 8, pp. 683-694, February 22, 2010. Available at SSRN:

Stancil, Paul J., Substantive Equality and Procedural Justice (April 5, 2016). Iowa Law Review, Forthcoming; BYU Law Research Paper No. 16-06. Available at SSRN:

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