Law is the system of rules that a government or society develops to deal with crime, business agreements and social relationships. The people who work in the law are called lawyers.
Jurisprudence, the study of law, involves several areas of research and legal analysis. It also includes a range of related disciplines including law enforcement, law administration and legal philosophy.
Constitutional law – The study of the laws that establish and govern the governments of nations, with particular attention to the rights of individuals. It is a complex subject and requires an understanding of many other disciplines including political theory, philosophy, economics, history and social sciences.
Natural law – A view of the laws of nature that advocates a belief in the morality and inviolability of individual rights, rooted in early Greek philosophy but revived in the Enlightenment. John Locke and others advocated this as a justification for the constitutional limits on state power.
Criminal law – A branch of law that deals with crimes and other legal matters. It is a complex area of law that includes offenses such as first-degree murder, treason and genocide, among other things.
Civil law – A branch of law that is found on most continents and that is based on concepts, categories, and rules drawn from Roman law with some influence from canon law. It is a complex system that has developed over centuries and is generally based on individual freedom and cooperation.
Courts – The body of people who hear cases in courts of law, usually federal or state. They include judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers and others.
Jurors – A group of citizens who decide the outcome of a trial or other court proceeding. They are chosen by a process called voir dire from a jury pool.
Prosecutors – A person who tries criminal cases on behalf of the state or government.
Public defenders – Represent defendants who cannot afford to hire private attorneys.
Judges – People who decide whether to send a case to a jury and how to conduct the trial.
Law clerks – Assist judges with research and drafting of opinions, as well as meeting the judges’ informational needs.
Library – A source of information on the law and other related subjects.
Jurors are usually selected from a juror pool that is randomly selected from voter registration banks.
Indicted – A formal charge issued by a grand jury, stating that there is enough evidence to believe the defendant committed a crime.
Capital offense – A crime that is punishable by death in the United States.
Case law – A body of court decisions that have been applied to similar facts in similar cases.
Jurors must have a certain education and experience to sit on the jury.
The court may decide to allow a defendant to try his or her case without an attorney. The prosecutor’s office may then represent the defendant during the trial, or the defendant may choose to have a private attorney defend him or her.