Definition of “Law”:
The law consists of rules that regulate the conduct of individuals, businesses, & other organizations within
society. It’s intended to protect people/their property from harm.
“Body of rules of action or conduct prescribed by a controlling authority & having
binding legal force. Citizens must obey/follow it and they are subject to sanctions or
legal consequences if they don’t.”
Functions of Law –
Keeping the peace: law prohibits certain conduct in order to protect people from crime.
Moral Standards: Law enforces/shapes moral standards.
Ex: Some laws discourage alcohol & drug abuse – Alcohol is prohibited to be sold on
Social Justice: Promotes equality among races.
Ex: Some laws prohibit discrimination in employment.
Status quo: Maintain a system – what to do & what not to do.
Ex: Some laws prevent the forceful overthrow of the government.
Facilitating orderly change: Protects system of law; laws can be changed with adaptation.
Ex: Laws are enacted only after considerable study, debate, & public input.
Planning: Well-designed commercial laws allow businesses to plan their activities, allocate their
productive resources, & asses the risks they take.
Basis for compromise: Approximately 90% of all law suits are settled prior to trial.
Maximizing Individual Freedom: The right to freedom of speech, religion, and association are
granted by the 1 amendment to the U.S. constitution.
Fairness of Law
The U.S. legal system is one of the most comprehensive, fair & democratic systems of law ever developed &
enforced. Even though this is true, sometimes problems (abuses of discretion/mistakes by judges & juries,
procedural mishaps, unequal application of law) & guilty parties may be overlooked and go unpunished.
Jury system: allowing members of a jury to decide a case for you.
Flexibility of Law
U.S. law evolves & changes w/the norms of the time, society, technology, & the growth & expansion of
commerce in the United States & the rest of the world. The law can be adjusted over time depending on the
1954 -Brown v. Board of Education: “Separate is not equal”; This was a consolidated case
that challenged the separate school systems of 4 states – Chief justice Warrenthtated that the
separate but equal doctrine violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14 amendment.
Ruled that the separate but equal doctrine has no place in public schools. This case
demonstrates that one supreme court case can overrule prior supreme court case in order to
Philosophy of Law - Won’t cover, not on test
History of American Law
English Common Law: (Judicial made law) based on systems of courts made up in England. Common law was developed by judges who issued their opinions when deciding cases. Principles announced in
these cases became precedent for later judges deciding similar cases. Can be divided into cases decided
by the law courts, equity courts, & merchant courts.
Chancery Courts: (equity courts) deal with what is fair. Established to give a fair decision on the case if
the law court system was not fair or couldn’t grant an appropriate remedy. Things other than money.
Rather than emphasize legal procedure, chancery court would look at merits of case. Remedies were
called equitable remedies because they were shaped to fit every situation. These took precedence over
legal decisions & remedies of law courts.
Ex: Hope diamond bidding – if you win, seller must sell you the diamond, if not owner goes
Merchant Courts: Law of merchants to solve commercial disputes.
Civil Law: statue made law, Louisiana only. Civil code/parliamentary statutes are the sole sources of the
law in most civil law countries.