Brief Overview of the Legal System in the US

We have all heard of the term “law” and may have consulted lawyers for legal issues. It is relevant to know that the legal system is different in different countries. And, the United States, there is a variation in the laws of different states.

There are three different types of laws in the US:

Case Law

It is also known as common law. It is drafted by a judicial body such as the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals or the Virginia Supreme Court. These laws are based on judicial decisions and not on constitutions, statutes, or regulations.

Statutory Law

The US Congress or State of Maryland General Assembly drafts the statutory laws. Statutory laws are written laws passed by the state or federal legislature. 

Regulatory Law

These laws are enforced by an administrative body such as the US Department of Labor or the State of Michigan Fair Employment Practices Commission. Regulatory laws are based on procedures established by federal, state, and local administrative agencies.  

Although these laws may appear to function independently, they are interdependent. They vary according to the jurisdictional unit. Each jurisdictional unit creates its own set of case, statutory, and regulatory laws. 

The chief jurisdictions in the US are:

  • Federal 
  • State
  • Regional
  • County
  • City

Some legal issues fall under the jurisdiction of federal laws while others are governed by state laws. For instance, legal issues related to civil rights, immigration, interstate matters, etc. are governed by federal laws. On the other hand, issues related to domestic relations, corporations, property, or contracts are governed by state laws. In most cases, criminal laws are governed by the state. 

Lower courts are generally required to follow the decisions of the higher courts. The court system also varies based on whether they are federal or state courts. In general, all court systems have two tiers, a trial court(district court) and the court of last resort or the Supreme Court. Many states have a court of appeals in which immediate appeals are tried. besides these, the court system may have special courts with limited jurisdiction.

Here’s how the court system works:

  • A lawsuit is generated in a trial court.
  • If either party is not satisfied with the judgment, they can file the case in the immediate court of appeals. 
  • The court of appeals makes a ruling that may either uphold the judgment of the trial court or reverse it.
  • In case either party does not accept this ruling they can appeal in the court of last resort.
  • The court of last resort needs to be petitioned. In other words, the judges and justices decide whether the case must be tried or not.
  • Either party has the right to petition the case in the United States Supreme Court in case they are not satisfied with the ruling of the State Supreme Court.

This is a brief overview of the types of laws and the working of the court system in the US. If you want help regarding any legal issue you are facing, consult the expert lawyers at Autrey Law Firm. We have specialist lawyers who are knowledgeable about all aspects of laws in the jurisdiction where the case is tried.