Law is the set of rules that govern social and governmental institutions. It is sometimes called the science of justice or the art of justice. State-enforced laws are created by groups of legislators or by a single legislator, while private-sector laws regulate business and investment practices. Some of the main legal issues that are frequently encountered by individuals include immigration, consumer rights, and housing.
The courts play a vital role in maintaining the rule of law and hearing grievances from minority opinions and groups. In the United States, equality before the law is a fundamental principle. Courts will consider both sides of a controversy when deciding a case. Fortunately, there are many online services that make it easy to keep up with recent legal developments. Examples include West’s KeyCite and Lexis/Nexis’s Shepard’s Citations.
Some legal systems expressly recognize judicial decisions as “law.” In common law systems, these decisions bind lower courts and future decisions of the same court. In civil law systems, however, laws are created by statutes and judicial decisions. In civil law systems, judicial decisions are generally less detailed and less specific than those in common law systems.
Historically, laws have been written by state legislatures, and state courts have the authority to declare them invalid. These laws can be influenced by constitutions, which guide the evolution of society. In addition to making laws, the courts also interpret laws, such as the Constitution.