Law is the body of rules and principles that governs human interactions in a community or a society. It is enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behaviour and to ensure peace and justice. Its precise definition is a matter of longstanding debate and has been described as both a science and an art. The law shapes politics, economics and history in various ways and serves as mediator of relations between people. The concept of the rule of law, based on the notion that the laws of a state are universally binding and apply to all its citizens, requires that government institutions adhere to a set of standards including supremacy of the law, equality before the law, separation of powers, participation in decision-making, legal certainty and avoidance of arbitrariness.
Laws are often stated in general terms because they are intended to apply to many different situations. However, there are often exceptions to general rules. This means that a law may have different meanings in particular cases and requires interpretation of the facts, law and circumstances of each case by a judge in order to determine whether a particular situation falls within its scope. This process is called judicial review and it is an important part of the legal system. In an adversarial system such as ours, there is a strong incentive to challenge the meaning of a law if doing so might gain an advantage in a dispute.
A judge’s official decision officially determining the rights and claims of the parties in a lawsuit. A judge’s ruling may be a summary of the evidence or a detailed statement of the case’s facts. The term judgment is also used to refer to a criminal conviction or a civil judgment of money damages awarded by a court.
An officer of a court who oversees administrative functions, especially managing the flow of cases through the courts. A court clerk may be a full-time employee or a contractor working for the courts.
The written record of a court hearing, typically arranged in chronological order and summarizing the evidence presented at each phase of the case. A transcript is available for public review once the trial has been concluded.
The legal status of a property, defining its ownership and restrictions on use. Common law, in contrast to civil law, identifies ownership through a chain of precedent rather than a statute. The practice of using legal precedent to inform future decisions is known as judicial review and the study of cases to determine which principles of law they support is called legal case analysis. Civil law, which originated in Europe, seeks to codify and consolidate case-law into a series of laws in small books so that they can be exported more easily and applied by judges around the world. This approach has led to convergence between civil and common law systems today. Civil law has also been developed to accommodate the needs of international trade.