Role and Functions of Law
Nicholas B. Seay
February 4, 2013
Role and Functions of Law
When it comes down to understanding law, most individuals have a better understanding of how criminal law plays a role in society instead of civil law. Modern law helps regulate business and individuals in a combination of constitutional law, statutory law, common law, and administrative law. These are also known as the primary sources of law as each can be used together or by themselves (Melvin, 2011). The following is a breakdown of these forms of law and how they apply to businesses that helps drive the society we know today. Constitutional law is the foundation of all other laws in the United States and is supreme law of the land. This law helps to regulate interstate commerce and sets limitations on a state’s authority to tax products and services in commerce. According to Melvin (2011), the powers that generally impact business owners and managers under constitutional powers are to regulate commerce, taxing the citizenry, commercial entities, spending of government funds, bankruptcy, patents, and copyrights. Statutory laws are divided into three levels; one being federal, second is state, and the third is at the local level. At the Federal level the U.S. Congress can pass a statute or bill at a two-thirds vote. State level or General Assembly passes statutes that regulate motor vehicle laws, business corporation and partnership laws whereas at the Local level or Ordinances regulate zoning, health and safety regulations on local merchants. The next two types of law are looked at on a different scale, yet they also have an important role when dealing with business. Common law is a principle based on resolutions between parties as it sets standards for other courts to follow when a similar dispute arises. The last of these laws is the Administrative law, which is a source of law gives authority by executive branch agencies and independent agencies. Federal administrative law is authorized by statutes and the Constitution although the rules for applying the law are carried out by administrative agencies. These agencies are empowered to administer and impose regulations such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which drafts regulations for approval by Congress for the Clean Air Act to reduce pollutions. This law is a mixture of several sources consisting of the Constitution, APA, and statutes with Common law playing a small influence. Taking a closer at the Constitutional law and how the limitations that it set on state’s authority to tax products and services in commerce, one can examine the case Cipollone v. Liggett Group, Inc. This case entailed a lawsuit against a three cigarette companies operating out of New Jersey because the mother of the plaintiff died of lung cancer due to smoking. The argument was based on the State of New Jersey laws were divided into five categories: 1) Design defect claim, 2) Failure to warn claim, 3) express warranty claim, 4) Fraudulent misrepresentation claim and 5) Conspiracy to defraud claim. The respondent responded by referencing the Federal Cigarette Act of 1965 and the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act of 1969 where cigarette companies had to have a set of uniform warnings across the United States on its products, but did not force such warning labels on televised commercials. The highest court of the State of New Jersey has held that federal statutes did not preempt similar common-law claims ("Cipollone V. Liggett Group, Inc., 1992.) In conclusion, the function and role in which laws are implemented for the business that I am employed with are standard for most businesses depending on the products produced. These play an important role in maintaining an official standard or minimum guidelines based on the Federal government whereas the states can enforce their own laws, but federal laws can supersede the state’s as noted from Cipollone v. Liggett Group, Inc. The laws govern how a company does business with the local community, out-of-state sales, and even on an international scale. With the use of the administrative law and the use of administrative agencies governing how a business should dispose of waste also benefits the companies and the society that they operate in.
Melvin, S.P. (2011). The Legal Environment of Business: A Managerial Approach: Theory to Practice. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.
Cipollone v. Liggett Group, Inc., et al. (1992). Retrieved from http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/90-1038.ZO.html Assessed on February 2, 2013