Legal Definition of Law

Rules established by a governing authority to institute and maintain orderly coexistence.2 min read


Rules established by a governing authority to institute and maintain orderly coexistence.

An act of Congress (state legislature) that has been signed by the president (governor) or passed over his veto by Congress. Public bills, when signed, become public laws, and are cited by the letters 'PL' and a hyphenated number. The two digits before the hyphen correspond to the Congress, and the one or more digits after the hyphen refer to the numerical sequence in which the bills were signed by the president during that Congress.

In the Middle Ages, law was considered to have been dictated by Divine Will, and revealed to wise men. The most ancient legal precedents and customs were considered to be the best law, and much of Continental Europe wound up modeling secular law after the old Roman law. In Byzantium, secular and sacred law were somewhat intermingled, with secular law taking precedence. In Western Europe, however, religious and secular law were separate bodies. Church law was known as Canon Law, and applied to the clergy, to the secular world in matters of the administration of the Sacraments such as marriage, and to the immunity of the clergy from secular law. This is the root of the conflict between Church and State. St. Augustine arranged law thru three levels:

Divine law, a perfect system comprehended thru faith and reason;

Natural law, which could be understood by all creatures, lacked the perfection of faith, and could be improved by philosophy;

Temporal (secular) law, obedience to which was enjoined on all Christians, save where it conflicted with Divine or Canon law.

In its most general and comprehensive sense, law signifies a rule of action, and is applied indiscriminately to all kinds of action; whether animate or inanimate, rational or irrational. In its more confined sense, law denotes the rule, not of actions in general, but of human action or conduct.

Law is generally divided into four principle classes, namely: Natural law; The law of nations; Public law; and, Private or civil law.

When considered in relation to its origin, it is statute law or common law. When examined as to its different systems it is divided into civil law, common law, canon law. When applied to objects, it is civil, criminal or penal.

It is also divided into natural law and positive law. Into written law, lex scripta; and unwritten law, lex non scripta. Into law merchant, martial law, municipal law and foreign law. When considered as to their duration, laws are immutable and arbitrary or positive. When viewed as to their effect, they are prospective and retrospective.

,1The Best Lawyers For Less

Hire the top business lawyers and save on legal fees

Post your legal job on Legal Marketplace

Content Approved
by Legal Marketplace