UNIT 1 A. Classification of Law Federal and state law Some laws come from the government of the United States. These are federal laws. A recent and well-known example is the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare," as some call it. The United States Congress voted in favor of creating that law, and President Obama signed it into law. Many laws, though, are created by individual states and are binding only in a single state. New York levies a state income tax on its residents, while Texas does not. Vermont allows for gay marriage, while Utah does not. States are free to create their own rules in many legal areas. Common law and statutory law The common law refers to legal ideas that originate in court opinions. When high- level courts (and especially the Supreme Court) decide cases, they create precedents that change the rules of the game and impact real people, sometimes by the millions. Statutory law refers to legal rules created by bodies of elected representatives. Every other November, voters go to the polls and cast ballots for candidates whom they hope will be elected to go to Washington, D.C., and represent them in the Congress. And on different timetables in different states, voters similarly try to send their preferred candidates to their state legislature. When the Congress or a state legislature creates a new law, it is called a statute. Civil and criminal law Imagine that Barry Battery punches you in the face for no good reason. Two different kinds of lawsuits might follow. The first is that you might bring a civil action against Barry and seek damages (money) to compensate you for your medical bills, pain and suffering, and the like. Civil laws cover rights and duties among private people and companies. (If you file a civil lawsuit, you will be the plaintiff. Barry, who will defend himself against your complaint, will be the defendant.) Second, the government might prosecute Barry in a criminal action and seek to levy fines, impose probation, or sentence Barry to time in prison. Criminal laws allow for the government to impose fines, imprisonment, and occasionally, the death penalty. Criminal law consists of (1) felonies (more serious) and (2) misdemeanors (less serious). Acts can be both criminal and civil. For example, if X steals Y’s car, the state could bring criminal charges against X, and Y could bring a civil action to recover damages arriving from the theft. Public and private law Public law consists of the area of law concerning the relationship between the government and the individual or the government and the business. Most clearly, this includes criminal law, constitutional law, and administrative law (meaning the principles that govern the procedures and activities of government boards and commissions.) B. Law and Ethics Law sets requirement/prohibits behavior. Ethics is more inspirational- it sets something that you should do or that would be good to do.
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- Law, Trial court