1. That which is laid down, ordained or established. A rule or method according to which phenomena or actions coexist or follow each other.
2. A system of principles and rules of human conduct, being the aggregate of those commandments and principles which are either prescribed or recognized by the governing power in an organized jural society as its will in relation to the conduct of the members of such society, and which it undertakes to maintain and sanction and to use as the criteria of the actions of such members. "Law" is a solemn
expression of legislative will. It outers and permits and forbids. It announces rewards and punishments. Its provisions generally relate not to solitary or singular cases, but to what passes in the ordinary course of affairs. Civ. Co.de La. arts. 1.
2. "Law," without an article, properly implies a science or system of principles or rales of human conduct, answering to the Latin "jus
;" as when it is spoken of as a subject of sindy or practice. In this sense, it includes the decisions of courts of justice, as well as acts of the legislature. The judgment of a competent
court, until reversed or otherwise superseded, la law, as much as any statute. Indeed, it may happen that a statute may be passed in violation of late, that is, of the fundamental law or constitution of a state; that it is the prerogative of courts in such cases 'bo declare
it void, or, in other words, to declare it not to be law. Burrill.
3. A rule of civil conduct prescribed by the supreme power
in a state. 1 Steph. Comm. 25; Civ. Code Dak. § 2; Pol. Code Cal. § 4466. A "law," in the proper sense of the term, is a general rule of human action, taking cognizance only of external acts, enforced by a determinate authority, which authority is human, and among human authorities is that which is paramount in a political society. Holl. Jur. 36. A "law," properly so called, is a command which obliges a person or persons ; and, as distinguished from a particular or occasional command, obliges generally to acts or forbearances of a class. Aust. Jur. A rule or enactment promulgated by the legislative authority of a state; a long-established local custom
which has the force of such an enactment. Dubois v. Hepburn, 10 Pet. 18, 9 In Ed. 325.
4. In another sense the word signifies an enactment; a distinct and complete act of positive law
; a statute, as opposed to rules of civil conduct deduced from the customs of the people or judicial precedents. When the term "law" is used to denote enactments of the legislative power
, it is frequently confined, especially by English writers, to permanent rules of civil conduct, as distinguished from other acts, such as a divorce act, an appropriation
bili, an estates act. Rep. Eng. St. h. Com. Mar. 1856. For other definitions
and descriptions, see State v. McCann, 4 Lea (Tenn.) 9; State v. Hockett, 70 Iowa, 454, 30 N. W. 744; Duncan v. Magette, 25 Tex. 253; Baldwin v. Philadelphia, 99 Pa. 170; State v. Fry, 4 Mo. 189; Forepaugh v. Railroad Co., 128 Pa. 217, 18 Atl. 503, 5 L. R. A. 508, 15 Am. St. Rep. 672 ; State v. Swan, 1 N. D. 5, 44 N. W. 492; Smith v. U. S-, 22 Fed. Cas. 696; Swift v, Tyson, 16 Pet 1, 10 Lu Ed. 865; Miller v. Dunn, 72 Cal. 462, 14 Pac. 27, 1 Am. St. Rep. 67; Bier v. McGehee
, 148 U. S. 137
, 13 Sup. Ch 580, 37 In Ed. 307. Historically considered. With reference to its origin, "law" is derived either from judicial precedents, from legislation, or from custom. That part of the law which is derived from judicial precedents is called "common law," "equity," or "admiralty
," "probate," or "ecclesiastical law
," according to the nature of the courts by which it was originally enforced. (See the respective titles.) That part of the law which is derived from legislation is called the "statute law
." Many statutes are classed under one of the divisions above mentioned because they have merely modified or extended portions of it, whlle others have created altogether new rules. That part of the law which is derived from custom is sometimes called the "customary law," as to which, see Custom. Sweet. The earliest notion of law was not an enumeration of a principle, but a judgment in a particular case. When pronounced in the early ages, by a king, it was assumed to be the result of direct divine inspiration. Afterwanis came the notion of a custom which a judgment affirms, or punishes its breach. In the outset, however, the only authoritative statement of right and wrong is a judicial sentence rendered after the fact has occurred. It does not presuppose a law to have been violated, but is enacted for the first time by a higher form into the judge's mind at the moment of adjudication. Maine, Anc. Law, (Dwight's Ed.) pp. xv.
5. Synonyms and distinctions. According to the usage in the United States, the name "constitution" is commonly given to the organic or fundamental law of a state, and the term "law" is used in contradistinction to the former, to denote a statute or enactment of the legislative body. "Law," as distinguished from "equity," denotes the doctrine and procedure of the common law of England and America, from which equity is a departure. The term is also used in opposition to "fact." Thus questions of law are to be decided by the court, while it Is the province of the jury to solve questions of fact. Classification. With reference to its subject-matter, law is either public or private. Public law ls that part of the law which dcals with the state, either by itself or in its relations with individuals, and ls divided into
(1) constitutional law
(2) administrative law;
(3) criminal law;
(4) criminal procedure
(5) the law of the state considered in its quasi private personality;
(6) the procedure relating to the state as so considered. Holl. Jur. 300. Law is also divided into substantive and adjective. Substantive law
is that part of the law which creates rights and obligations, while adjective law
provides a method of enforcing and protecting them. In other words, adjective law is the law of procedure. Holl. Jur. 61, 238. The ordinary, but not very useful, division of law into written and unwritten rests on the same principle. The written law
is the statute law; the unwritten law
is the common law, (q. v.) 1 Steph. Comm. 40, following Blaekstone. Kinds of statutes. Statutes are called "general" or "public" when they affect the community at large
; and local or special when their operation is confined to a limited region, or particular class or interest. Statutes are also either prospective or retrospective; the former, when they are intended to operate upon future cases only; the latter, when they may also embrace transactions occurring before their passage. Statutes are called "enabling" when they confer new powers; "remedial" when their effect is to provide relief or reform abuses; "penal" when they impose punishment, pecuniary or corporal, for a violation of their provisions.
5. In old English jurisprudence, "law" is used to signlfy an oath, or the privilege of being sworn; as in the phrases "to wage one's law," "to lose one's law."