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University of Technology

Introduction to Law
Lecture # 1
• What is Law?
• How Legal Systems Are
• The Components of
• Interpreting the Law
• Law pervades our lives
– Law is a body of rules enacted by public
officials in a legitimate manner and backed
by the force of the state.
• Law regulates the public and private
institutions that are a central part of our lives
• Law is a word of many meanings— it is
difficult to define
Law and Justice
• Definitions of law do not necessarily include justice
– Justice is fairness in treatment by the law.
• The term justice is used many ways:
• justice is winning
• justice is achieving desired results “good v. bad”
• justice is equated with normative values “right to
privacy v. rights of the unborn”
Types of Law
Civil Law
• also called Roman law, Romano-Germanic
law, or continental law
• is the oldest family of law
• starts with a code—the compilation of laws
• the code expresses rules of law as general
• the code provides answers for all disputes
• judges not lawyers dominate court
hearings (e.g., call witnesses)
• judges are career bureaucrats who have
not been practicing lawyers
• juries are not generally used—mixed
tribunals of judges and lay citizens are
used in serious criminal cases
Socialist Law
• originated in the former Soviet Union
• partly based on the civil system (a code)
• but is also revolutionary—law is to be used
to create a radically different society
• based on the philosophy of Karl Marx and
Vladimir Lenin—the societal ownership of
the major means of production is a guiding
• rejects law as the fundamental basis for
society—law is the arbitrary work of an
autocratic sovereign
• the primary goal is the protection of the
state—private property receives less protection
• law has an educational role—it is an
instrument of educating members about the
new Socialist society
Islamic Law
• most legal systems of the world are secular—
but not all
• Islamic law is termed the shari’a
• based on the Qur’an, which sets out principles
revealed by God
• and the Sunna which contains the practices
and decisions of Muhammad
• Islam and Islamic clerics influence the law
Common Law
• traces its roots to medieval England
• after the Norman conquest (1066) the King’s
courts began to apply the common customs of
the entire realm rather than one village
• common law came to be viewed as general
law as opposed to special law—it was the law
common to the entire land
• the common law became technical and
evolved into a hard and limited law
• common law remedies were largely limited to
monetary damages
• the refusal of judges to adapt gave rise to
equity law
• equity meant fair dealing and equitable
remedies were more flexible (e.g., injunctions)
• colonists brought principles of British common
• they brought procedures but did not always apply
the substance
• law was adapted to the new society
• by the nineteenth century most states had merged
their separate courts of law and equity
• today the term common law refers to the case
Key Characteristics of Common Law

• Judge-Made Law
• Precedent
• Uncodified Rules and Regulations
Judge Made Law
• until the late 19th century, there was no important
body of statutory law in the U.S.
• common-law courts developed rights in the area
of property, torts, wills and contracts, and they
defined such felonies as murder, manslaughter,
arson, robbery, larceny and rape
• common law’s most distinctive feature is the
development of a system of law from judicial
• court decision that serves as authority for deciding
a similar question of law in a later case
• also referred to as stare decisis “let the decision
• sometimes statements in a case are not
interpreted as precedent—obiter dicta—(dictum
or dicta) the part of the reasoning in a judicial
opinion that is unnecessary to resolve the case—is
not considered precedent
• reliance on precedent is central to the common
law approach
• provides stability, coherence, and
• “Stare decisis is usually wise policy, because
in most matters it is more important that the
applicable rule of law be settled than that it be
settled right.” Justice Louis Brandeis
Uncodified Rules & Regulations
• there is no one place to look for a statement of
“the law”
• the law emerges through precedent found in court
• common-law judges and lawyers reason by
analogy which allows leeway in formulating new
legal rules or modifying old ones, because
analogies are neither correct nor incorrect, only
more or less persuasive
• judges may distinguish a current case
from previous ones
• judges may find that a case differs from
all previous cases or that a previous case
was wrongly decided
Adversary System
• the common-law is adversarial, civil law is
• the parties are responsible for calling
witnesses and asking questions
• a judge acts as a neutral decision maker
presiding over a battle between the opposing
• the best system for finding “the truth’?
• Party Prosecution
• it is the responsibility of the parties, not the judge
or jury, to define the legal issues
• encourages each party to present its best case
• Neutral and Passive Decision Maker
• the judge is a neutral arbitrator and expected to be
• must be free from pressure--independent
• federalism divides power between the
national and state state governments
• federal law refers to the law of the national
government—applies across the nation
• state law applies to citizens within its
territory—it is extensive and diverse (e.g.,
business and marriage law)
• local law applies to a limited geographic or
functional area—states grant local
jurisdictions legal powers
Multiple Sources of Law
• federal, state and local laws are
found in multiple sources

• constitutions are the top rung
• a constitution is the document that establishes the
underlying principles and general laws of a nation or
• define the powers of branches of government
• limit the powers of government (e.g., Bill of Rights)
• Constitutions
• specify how government officials will be selected
• federal and state constitutions vary (e.g., selection of

• Statutes
• statutes are laws enacted by federal, state or local
• until late 19th century statutes were secondary to court
• today legislatively enacted law is extensive and
• Administrative Regulations
• rules and regulations adopted by administrative
agencies that have the force of law
• e.g., IRS decisions, nursing home standards, zoning
• newest and fastest growing source of law
• administrative law concerns the duties and proper
running of an administrative agency
Judicial Decisions
• appellate court decisions are an
important source of law
• legislatures pass law wholesale courts
make it retail (Friedman 1984)
• U.S. law today is primarily statutory
and administrative—but some areas
(e.g., tort law and court procedures)
are dominated by judge-made law
• case law is important in determining
the meaning of other sources of law
Public & Private Laws
• Public law directly involves government
(e.g., constitutional, criminal,
administrative and international law)
• Private law governs the relationships
between private citizens
• Tort law involves the legal wrong done to another person
• not really private—it relies heavily on the actions of public
• e.g., divorce law—governs private relationships but
involves court decisions
Civil & Criminal Law
• a civil suit involves a dispute between
private parties
• a criminal suit involves a violation of a
government’s penal laws
• difference between who has been
harmed (individual v. state)
• types of remedies differ (compensation
v. prison, fines or probation)
• there are different types of criminal
• a felony is a more serious criminal offense
that involves a possible prison sentence of
one year or more
• a misdemeanor is a less serious crime that
usually involves a possible prison sentence
of less than one year
• criminal and civil law can sometimes
overlap (e.g., a drunk driver who kills
Substantive & Procedural Law
• substantive law defines legal rights—
the law defines the legal relationship
between the citizen and the state, and
among citizens themselves (e.g.,
contracts, property, torts, will criminal
• procedural law establishes the methods
of enforcing legal rights
• governs the conduct of cases in court
• protects against arbitrary government actions
• the central idea is due process of law
• judgment – a court’s official decision
about the rights and claims of each
side in a lawsuit
• remedy – the relief granted by the
court, remedies include:
• declaratory judgments – a judicial determination of the
legal rights of the parties
• restitution – the return of goods a party is entitled to
• the most common remedy is monetary damages
• Compensatory damages – payments for the actual
harm suffered (e.g., medical bills, lost income, pain
and suffering)
• Punitive damages – monies awarded to a person who
has been harmed in a particularly malicious or willful
way (I.e., not related to the harm done and meant
punish the responsible party)
• under equity law litigants seek an injunction – a court
order that requires a person to take and action or refrain
from taking action
Doctrines of Access
• used to control the flow of cases into
the judiciary
• the court must have jurisdiction – the power of a court
to hear a case in question
• controversy must be a real dispute—not hypothetical
• plaintiff must have standing to sue

• are judicially created and can be

changed or waived for a particular
case—especially in policy lawsuits
Interpreting the Law
• citizens typically misunderstand the how
judges and lawyers interpret and apply the law
• the law is not a series of precisely written and
readily located rules that cover situations
• lawyers and judges must make sense out of
the words found in constitutions, statutes,
administrative regulations, and previous court
• some areas of law are relatively settled and
others are not—creating discretionary choices
• discretionary choices lead to
interpretation—judges and lawyers
must make choices
• meaning of the words – legislatures and judges use vague
language that leaves considerable room for interpretation
• conflicting laws – it is not uncommon to find one law
conflicting with another (e.g., allowing free exercise of
religion may appear to be the establishment of that religion
by the state)
• gaps in the law – despite all of our law, situations do arise
that are not contemplated, the discretionary choices courts
make about these matters are important
• U.S. law is complex, fragmented and
• Our common-law traditions are unique and
differ considerably from civil-law traditions
• Our legal system is adversarial
• Juries play a more important role than in
most legal systems
• The Supreme Court decides some of the
most pressing social and political issues of
the day
• Planning, in the widest meaning of that word is
constantly on debate in our society. Demands
for planning are increasing and so are the
demnads for quality in the planning process.
Planning & Land Use Law
• “After all, a policeman must know the
Constitution, then why not a planner?” San
Diego Gas & Electric v. City of San Diego, 450
U.S. 621, 661 n.26 (1981) (Brennan, J.,
Legal Foundations of Planning &
• United States’ Constitution
• State Constitutions
• State Statutes

• Case Law - Federal and State

Police Power
• Sovereign power of the state to regulate and
control private behavior in order to protect
and promote greater public welfare
• “Protection of health, safety, morals,
convenience, and general welfare”
• Police power must be delegated by state to
counties and municipalities
Substantive Due Process
• Legitimate Governmental Purpose –
Protection of health, safety, welfare, morals,
property values, quiet enjoyment, etc.

• Rational Relationship – A conceivable,

believable, reasonable relationship
Critical Constitutional Concepts
• Equal Protection - Treating those that are
similarly situated the same, or making
distinctions only on legitimate grounds

• Distinctions based on fundamental right or

“protected class” status are unconstitutional
(see, e.g., Moore v. City of East Cleveland)
Presumption of Validity
• Legislative actions are presumed valid and
constitutional, and the burden is on the
person challenging the action to prove
Validity of Zoning
• Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty, 272 U.S. 365
(1926) (holding that the mere enactment and
threatened enforcement of a general zoning
ordinance that creates various geographic
districts and excludes certain uses from such
districts is a valid exercise of the police power
and does not violate due process or equal
protection provisions of U.S. Constitution)
Eminent Domain
• Berman v. Parker, 348 U.S. 26 (1954)

Concept of public welfare is broad and

inclusive, includes “spiritual values as well as
physical, and aesthetic values as well as
monetary.” Once question of public purpose
is settled, legislature has discretion to take all
parcels needed to avoid “piecemeal
approach” to implementing redevelopment
• Susette Kelo v. City of New London, 125 S.Ct.
2655 (2005).
City’s exercise of eminent domain power in
furtherance of economic development plan
satisfies the “public purpose” interpretation of
the “public use” requirement of the Takings
Clause of the Fifth Amendment even though
city does not intend to open land for use by
general public. Affirms Berman v. Parker