Law is a set of rules created and enforced by social or governmental institutions that regulate behavior. When a person breaks a law, they can be punished by the institution that enacted it, such as by a fine or imprisonment. The precise definition of law is a matter of great debate, but it generally refers to any set of rules that govern the conduct of individuals and groups and provides an ordered way of resolving disputes. Examples of laws include civil, criminal, contract, property, bankruptcy, and statutory law.
The rule of law is a crucial element in international peace and security, economic development, curbing corruption, restraining the abuse of power, and protecting people’s fundamental rights and freedoms. It is also the foundation for the sanctity of human life and a just society. A strengthened rule of law is central to the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.
A legal system is the framework that a country uses to manage its governing processes, resolve conflicts, and adjudicate cases. A nation’s legal system includes both national and local institutions, such as courts, prosecutors, police departments, public defenders, and clerks. It may also include customary law and tribunals, which are often used in countries that lack strong formal justice systems.
A court is a place where a dispute is resolved through a process of trial and appeal. Defendants and plaintiffs have lawyers who represent them, but the actual trials are usually conducted by a judge or a jury of citizens. The legal system has a set of procedures, such as those for pleading, evidence, and judgments, that determine how a case is decided.
A juror is a person who hears evidence and decides the facts of a case. The role of the juror is to apply the law to the evidence and to render a fair decision. Jurors are often required to follow a specific code of conduct during the trial, and they must disclose any relationships or interests that might influence their judgment.
In the Bible, the word law usually means the Mosaic covenant and its commandments. The New Testament, however, focuses more on particular matters commanded by God (e.g., Matthew 5:18).
A legal document is a written statement that creates an obligation or a duty to do or not do something. A written agreement is called a contract, and it is binding under the law. Some types of contracts include promissory notes, guaranties, and bail bonds. A document that is not a contract but is still legally binding is a statute or a treaty. A statute is a law passed by a legislature. A legislative body can pass laws that affect the entire nation. A treaty is a binding agreement between two countries.