Law is the set of legal rules, principles, and standards that governs the behavior of individuals and groups within societies. It serves several essential purposes: establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights.
The nature of law varies greatly from nation to nation. Authoritarian regimes may fail to serve all of these functions, while democratic governments may. However, the fundamental principles of law are universal. It is an important topic of study in history, philosophy, economic analysis, and sociology.
The concept of law is not easily defined, and the resulting disagreements are often heated. However, most definitions of law include the idea that it is a system of principles or policies governing human behaviour, the behaviour of society, and the relationship between people and nature. It includes a number of philosophies, theories, and concepts such as morality, justice, and fairness. It also refers to all professions that deal with advising people about the law, representing them in court and giving decisions and punishments.
A major philosophical debate centers around whether the law is or is not a set of precepts that can be verified empirically. One approach, influenced by the work of philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, argues that law is simply an expression of what a rational decision maker expects to happen in a given situation. The decision maker’s expectation is based on his or her experiences (broadly defined to include first hand experience and stories told by others).
There are many fields of law, but some of the most important are criminal, civil, family, and administrative. The field of criminal law addresses offences against the state and carries out the function of keeping the peace by punishing violators. Civil law is concerned with resolving disputes between individuals, such as in tort (where a person or organisation suffers damage), contract, and property.
Administrative law is a broad area that covers government activities, such as immigration and citizenship, taxation, banking regulation, and other issues of public interest. Family law is concerned with matters such as marriage and divorce, and the rights of children and parents. Family law is a subset of civil law.
A further field is space law, which relates to human activities in space and the laws that govern these activities. Similarly, environmental law concerns the laws that apply to natural resources. A judicial process is called an appeal, and it occurs when a party asks another court to review the judgment of the original court or tribunal. Typically, this involves arguing that the original decision was wrong in some way. The other court that hears the appeal is called the appellate court. During an appeal, the parties involved are called appellants and respondents. The decision by the appellate court is known as an appeals judgment. Appellate courts have jurisdiction over a certain geographic area. The appellant can decide where to file a case, although there are circumstances under which cases are heard in multiple locations concurrently.