Structure of the U.S. Legal System

Pages: 2 (369 words) Published: December 1, 2008
The US Legal System

In the United States, laws are made at the federal and state levels. Laws adopted by legislative entities (Congress and state legislatures) are called statutes. The federal and state courts also create law.

Federal Statutes

The US Constitution gives Congress to power to enact federal laws (statutes) on certain subjects.

According to the Constitution, all powers not delegated to Congress are reserved to the states.

Federal law-making begins when a member of the Senate or the House of Representatives introduces a bill. Most bills are referred to standing committees (for example, the House Committee on the Judiciary) and to subcommittees for study. Bills are later brought before the Senate or House for debate and vote. Differences between the Senate and House versions of a bill are resolved in joint conferences committees.

After the House and Senate have approved a uniform of the bill, the bill is sent to the President. If the President signs the bill, it becomes a law. If the President vetoes the bill, it becomes law only if the Senate and House override the veto. This requires the consent of two-thirds of the members of the Senate and the House.

State Statutes

State legislatures can pass laws on matter for which they share jurisdiction with Congress. State law-making occurs through a process that is similar to the federal process.

The Courts

The courts enforce statutes and interpret them. They also invalidated unconstitutional statutes, and make law in areas not covered by statutes. The courts have got four main roles which are :

- Enforcement,

- Interpretation,

- Invalidation: The courts invalidate unconstitutional laws. Unconstitutional laws are laws that conflict with provisions of the Constitution. The Constitution is the supreme law of the US. Many cases involve claims that a law violates the Constitution’s Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments),

- Making Law: The courts create...
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