The history of law parallels the development of human civilisation. In ancient Egyptian law developed around 3000 BC. By 1760 BC Babylon law was codified and chiseled in stone for the public to see in the marketplace. These laws became known as the Code of Hammurabi.
The Old Testament Torah is a body of law written around 1300 BC and has moral rules such as the Ten Commandments, which tell people what things are not permitted in society.
Roman law is the legal system of ancient Rome, including the legal developments spanning over a thousand years, from the Twelve Tables about 450BC , to the “Body of Civil Law” ordered by the Roman Emperor Justinian I. Although the Code of Justinian was not, in itself, a new legal code, it rationalised a millennium of existing Roman statutes. Contradictions and conflicts were eliminated, and any existing laws that were not included in it were repealed.
Roman law forms the basic framework for Civil law, the most used legal system today. The historical importance of Roman law is reflected by the continued use of Latin legal terminology in many legal systems influenced by it, including Common law.
In democracies, the people in a country usually choose people called politicians to represent them in a legislature. Examples of legislatures include the Houses of Parliament in London, the Congress in Washington, D.C., the Bundestag in Berlin, the Duma in Moscow and the Assemblée nationale in Paris. Most legislatures have two chambers or houses, a ‘lower house’ and an ‘upper house’. To pass legislation, a majority of Members of Parliament must vote for a bill in each house. The legislature is the branch of government that writes laws, and votes on whether they will be approved.
The judiciary is a group of judges who resolve people’s disputes and determine whether people who are charged with crimes are guilty. In some jurisdictions the judge does not find guilt or innocence but instead directs a jury, how to interpret facts from a legal perspective, but the jury determines the facts based on evidence presented to them and finds the guilt or innocences of the charged person. Most countries of common law and civil law systems have a system of appeals courts, up to a supreme authority such as the Supreme Court or the High Court. The highest courts usually have the power to remove laws that are unconstitutional (which go against the constitution).
Executive (government) and Head of State
The executive is the governing centre of political authority. In most democratic countries, the executive is elected from people who are in the legislature. This group of elected people is called the cabinet. In France, the US and Russia, the executive branch has a President which exists separately from the legislature.
The executive suggests new laws and deals with other countries. As well, the executive usually controls the military, the police, and the bureaucracy. The executive selects ministers, or secretaries of state to control departments such as the health department or the department of justice.
In many jurisdictions the Head of State does not take part in the day to day governance of the jurisdiction and takes a largely ceremonial role. This is the case in many Commonwealth nations where the Head of State, usually a Governor almost exclusively acts “on the advice” of the head of the Executive (e.g. the Prime Minister, First Minister or Premier). The primary legal role of the Head of State in these jurisdictions is to act as a check or balance against the Executive, as the Head of State has the rarely exercised power to dissolve the legislature, call elections and dismiss ministers.
Other parts of the legal system
The police enforce the criminal laws by arresting people suspected of breaking the law.
Bureaucrats are the government workers and government organisations that do work for the government. Bureaucrats work within a system of rules, and they make their decisions in writing.
Lawyers are people who have learned about laws. Lawyers give people advice about their legal rights and duties and represent people in court. To become a lawyer, a person has to complete a two- or three-year university program at a law school and pass an entrance examination. Lawyers work in law firms, for the government, for companies, or by themselves.
Civil society is the people and groups that are not part of government that try to protect people against human rights abuses and try to protect freedom of speech and other individual rights. Organisations that are part of civil society include political parties, debating clubs, trade unions, human rights organisations, newspapers and charities.
“Corporations are among the organisations that use the legal system to further their goals. Like the others, they use means such as campaign donations and advertising to persuade people that they are right. Corporations also engage in commerce and make new things such as automobiles, vaporisers/e-cigarettes, and Unmannedaerialvehicles (i.e. “drones”) that the old laws are not well equipped to deal with.