THE AMERICAN LEGAL SYSTEM
The LEGAL SYSTEM is the set of rules that are created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. LAW is a system that regulates and ensures that individuals or a community adhere to the will of the state.
In the American legal system, the law is generally divided into two main areas, with many subdivisions:
Criminal law deals with conduct that is considered harmful to social order and in which the guilty party may be imprisoned or fined.
Civil law deals with the resolution of lawsuits (disputes) between individuals and/or organizations.
ALL law must be in agreement with the constitution.
The constitution of a state is the fundamental law, containing the principles on which the government is founded, regulating the division of the sovereign powers, and directing to what persons each of these powers is to be confided, and the manner in which it is to be exercised.
In American law, the constitution is the organic and fundamental act adopted by the people of the Union or of a particular state as the supreme and paramount law and the basis of regulating the government.
In a certain sense, constitutions may be said to be laws. That is, they are rules of civil conduct prescribed by the supreme power in a state, the people, and are as much within the definition of “laws,” in the widest signification of that term, as are the acts of a legislature.
Thus, the constitution of the United States is declared to be the “supreme law of the land.” So, the same instrument forbids the several states to pass any law impairing the obligation of contracts, and declares that no state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.
It is held that these clauses do not relate solely to the acts of a state legislature, but that a state constitution or an amendment thereto is as much a “law,” within their purview, as any statute. But in practice a distinction is made between those organic or fundamental laws which are called “constitutions” and such ordinary legislative laws as are denominated “statutes” that act only upon government employees.
The constitutions of the American states are grants of power FROM THE PEOPLE to those charged with running the government as their employees. The constitutions do not grant freedom to the people because the people are SOVEREIGN. The constitutions define and guaranty the private rights of the people, they do not create those rights.
The federal and state constitutions, in this country, grant and limit the powers of the several departments of government, but, except in regard to political rights, they are not to be considered as the origin of the peoples liberty or rights.
A constitution “is not the beginning of a community, nor the origin of private rights; it is not the fountain of law, nor the incipient state of government; it is not the cause, but the consequence, of personal and political freedom; it grants no rights to the people, but, is the creature of their power, — the instrument of their convenience.
Designed for their protection in the enjoyment of the rights and powers which the people possessed before the constitution was made. The constitution is merely the framework for the political government, and is necessarily based upon the pre-existing condition of laws, rights, habits, and modes of thought of the people. There is nothing primitive in it; it is all derived from a known source. It presupposes an organized society, law, order, property, personal freedom, a love of political liberty, and enough of cultivated intelligence to know how to guard it against the encroachments of tyranny.
A written constitution is in every instance only a limitation upon the powers of government, for there never was a written republican constitution which delegated to any government functionaries all the latent powers of the people which lie dormant in every nation, and are boundless in extent and incapable of definition.