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There are differing conceptions of what law is and of what law should be. Laws and legal systems differ worldwide. The legal system in the United States is founded on the US Constitution, which is itself inspired by natural-law theory and the idea that people have rights that cannot be taken by government but only protected by government. The various functions of the law are done well or poorly depending on which nation-state you look at. Some do very well in terms of keeping order, while others do a better job of allowing civil and political freedoms. Social and political movements within each nation greatly affect the nature and quality of the legal system within that nation.
This chapter has familiarized you with a few of the basic schools of legal thought, such as natural law, positive law, legal realism, and critical legal studies. It has also given you a brief background in common law, including contracts, torts, and criminal law. The differences between civil and criminal cases, substance and procedure, and the various sources of law have also been reviewed. Each source has a different level of authority, starting with constitutions, which are primary and will negate any lower-court laws that are not consistent with its principles and provisions. The basic differences between the common law and civil law (continental, or European) systems of law are also discussed.
In the following situations, which source of law takes priority, and why?
The source of law that is foundational in the US legal system is
“Law is the command of a sovereign” represents what school of legal thought?
Which of the following kinds of law are most often found in state law rather than federal law?
Where was natural law discovered?
Wolfe is a state court judge in California. In the case of Riddick v. Clouse, which involves a contract dispute, Wolfe must follow precedent. She establishes a logical relationship between the Riddick case and a case decided by the California Supreme Court, Zhu v. Patel Enterprises, Inc. She compares the facts of Riddick to the facts in Zhu and to the extent the facts are similar, applies the same rule to reach her decision. This is
Moore is a state court judge in Colorado. In the case of Cassidy v. Seawell, also a contract dispute, there is no Colorado Supreme Court or court of appeals decision that sets forth a rule that could be applied. However, the California case of Zhu v. Patel Enterprises, Inc. is “very close” on the facts and sets forth a rule of law that could be applied to the Cassidy case. What process must Moore follow in considering whether to use the Zhu case as precedent?