Sandia Mountains

Steps in a Criminal Trial

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Steps in a Civil trial

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The American Legal System

The american legal system is based on the english common law system. Early settlers to this country brought with them the court system of england and modified it over time.
Common law originated in england when disputes were decided on the basis of established customs. If a particular case could not be decided in this way, the judge would decide it based on his individual idea of right and wrong. This became known as the law of precedent and the doctrine of stare decisis. Stare decisis" is a latin term meaning "to stand by decisions" and its effect is that a decision of the highest court has the force of law and must be followed in future cases unless the court itself changes its decision in a later case.

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Source of U.S.Law

The four basic sources of law in the United States include the Constitution of the United States and the individual states, case law, statutes, and regulations written by agencies.
The Constitution of the United States consists of a preamble, seven articles and 26 amendments. The first ten amendments are known as the bill of rights and guarantee such rights as freedom of speech, press and worship. Most state constitutions are patterned after the federal one. Case law consists of court decisions made in various state and federal courts. They are generally divided into three categories:

Statutes are laws enacted by the congress of the United States or by state legislatures. The statutes of the United States are contained in the united states code, which is arranged by numbers and titles. State statutes are laws passed by state legislatures. They too may be organized into codes. The exact code titles may vary from one jurisdiction to another. In California, for example, they are called California codes. And in Missouri, they are called Missouri revised statutes. Laws passed by cities are call municipal ordinances. They are usually passed by the city s governing council and approved by the mayor.
As with the other sources of law. - regulations written by administrative agencies may be either federal, state or citywide in scope. In addition to being classified by jurisdiction, law may be classified according to the parties involved or the nature of the law.

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Public and Private Law

Classification based on parties involved organizes law into public and private law. Public law includes all forms of the law to which the general public is subject. Some examples - are constitutional law, criminal law, maritime law, and municipal law. Any individual or business organization subject to the jurisdiction of the law of the country is subject to public law.
Private law generally applies only to individuals who subject themselves to a specific type of law because of their actions in private transactions. In most respects. Every field of private law is either a refinement or subdivision of the law contracts. Included therefore under the general heading of private law are the law of sales, law of negotiable instruments, law of agency, partnership law, corporation law, property law and the many other subdivisions of the general classification of business law.

Substantive and Procedural

Classification based on the nature of the 1aw organizes law into substantive and adjective or procedural categories. Substantive law states the rights and obligations of individuals. It is the law as stated in the statutes of the united states government or the various state legislatures. Substantive law states the law or laws that govern a particular topic.
Adjective law deals with legal procedure rather than stating the law. It outlines and describes the procedures that must be followed in applying the substantive law.

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The U.S. Court System

The United States court system is like a pyramid with the U.S. Supreme Court at its peak and the federal and state court systems composing the two sides. Federal courts are divided into areas called circuits; each contains a u.s. circuit court of appeals, which hears appeal cases only, and u.s. district courts, which serve as trial courts in the federal system.
The trial court is where a case is first heard and a judge or jury decides it.
Most civil cases are filed in local trial courts. These may be referred to as state, municipal, county or superior courts, but these courts may also be subdivided to handle specific kinds of cases:

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Legal Dictionary

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