Law is the set of rules that regulates human conduct and imposes order in society. It is the subject of much scholarly inquiry, including history, philosophy, economic analysis and sociology.
In law, a court decision is called “case law.” Court decisions are important because they determine how other laws (such as statutes) should be applied in different situations. Moreover, the courts must follow a doctrine called “stare decisis” which means that a former decision will be followed in a similar case unless there is reason to believe that the earlier decision was wrong.
A judge’s written instructions to the jury concerning the law that applies to the facts of a case on trial is called a “charge.” A felony charge that is the basis for a defendant’s arrest is called an indictment.
The legal profession is a highly skilled and responsible job that requires specialized knowledge of law and the legal system. It includes judges; law clerks (or staff attorneys) who help judges with research and drafting opinions; librarians; and the attorneys who represent plaintiffs and defendants in lawsuits.
The most important function of law is regulating the distribution of goods and privileges in society. However, this requires political power. Therefore, many people aspire to gain the political-legal authority to make and enforce laws in their communities. This is the motivation for revolutions and aspirations for greater rights for citizens. It is also the motivation for those who have military power to take over existing political-legal authority in a nation or region.