Classifying Law Chapter 2
Sources Of Law • English Common Law – aka. Case law or judge-made law. Combined with the law of equity, Canadian courts follow the legal principle of “Stare decisis”. Judges can also find a case as being different enough from previous cases as to warrant a different decision. This is referred to as “distinguishing a case.”
Statute Law – refers to a law or act passed by government. Statutes override common law….if there is no statute then the common law applies. • When a judge interprets a statute, the decision becomes a precedent and similar cases are interpreted the same way. • Federal, provincial or local governments (bylaws) can enact legislation that becomes law, depending on their jurisdiction.
Constitutional law – body of law which deals with the distribution and exercise of government powers. It overrides all other law in that all law must be consistent with the Constitution. • Our constitution is referred to as the Constitution Act of 1982. (formally the BNA Act) • If a law violates the constitution it may be thrown out by the courts. (abortion law)
Constitutional law appears at the top of the pyramid because it overrides all other laws.
Categories of Law • International Law – deals with relations between nations. (treaties, i.e. NATO) • Who is Slobodan Milosevic? • Domestic Law – Laws within a country’s borders. (case law, statute law, see United States vs. Burns, p.41) • Substantive Law – Refers to law that defines the rights, duties and obligations of both citizens and government. (right to own property) • Procedural Law – The methods of enforcing the rights and obligations of substantive law. Persons of authority must follow proper procedures to ensure that all citizens are treated fairly.
Public Law • Substantive law can be divided into public and private law. • Public Law – refers to the relationship between government and its citizens. It includes constitutional, administrative and criminal law. • Administrative Law – refers to the many government departments, boards, etc. that play a role in regulating the relationship between people and government. • Criminal Law – refers to law that identifies crimes and prescribes punishment. All crimes are described in the Criminal Code of Canada and related laws such as the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act or the Youth Criminal Justice Act. When someone breaks the law, it is not only against an individual, but society as well. (R. vs Accused, R refers to Regina, the Queen, or Rex, the King)
Private Law • Aka. Civil law, it is law governing the relationships between private individuals and between individuals and organizations. Its main purpose is to regulate conduct and compensate individuals who have been harmed by the wrongful actions of others. It includes….. • Tort Law – the branch of Civil Law that holds persons or organizations responsible for damage they cause another person as a result of accidental or deliberate action. • Contact Law – provides rules regarding agreements between people and business. • Family Law – deals with aspects of family life. (marriage, divorce, child custody) • Other examples include estate law, property law and employment law.
Figure 2.8 Categories of Law, p. 45 • Private law is divided into tort law, contract law, family law, wills and estates law, property law, and employment law.