Law is the system of rules that a particular country or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its members. It can be understood as the framework that ensures a stable society and provides protection for all. A legal system is not just a collection of laws; it also consists of the processes and institutions that enforce them. Oxford Reference offers more than 34,000 concise definitions and in-depth, specialist encyclopedic entries across this broad discipline – covering everything from criminal law and corporate finance to family and employment law. Our expert authors provide the information you need to understand this complex area, with clear explanations of terms, concepts and processes.
The framers of the United States Constitution realized that a democracy could not function if anyone was above the law. Their solution was a system of checks and balances, known as the separation of powers. This is a means of ensuring that the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government do not become a law unto themselves. By separating these powers, no one branch has the power to create or change laws or enforce the laws. This is a principle that the framers of many other democracies have recognized as essential to their success.
There are many different ways to define the concept of law, and it is often viewed as either an objective or a subjective phenomenon. Objective law is based on the principle that all people are equal before the law and that the law should reflect that equality. This type of law is based on the scientific method and strives for objectivity. However, there is a poor concordance between this type of law and the realities of the justice system.
A subjective understanding of the law focuses on how a person perceives and interprets a situation. It relies on a person’s internal narratives, shaped by her experiences and stories that she has heard. The difference between an individual’s narrative of the law and the codified community narrative of equality is often as great as the difference between the speed of light and sound.
Another view of the law combines both elements of subjective and objective views. It tries to find a middle ground between the social norms of an idealistic society and the practical reality of the justice system. It aims for the best of both worlds by allowing judges and lawyers to use their own sense of justice when they make decisions.
In the law, there is a distinction between “law” and “equity.” Law cases are heard in courts of “law,” while equity cases are heard in courts of “equity.” A court of “equity” has the power to grant relief for unfair treatment or wrongful conduct, but a court of “law” cannot. These differences reflect the societal and cultural context in which they were created. A court of equity may also be known as a common law court.