Negative perceptions of “red tape” aside, public services such as schooling, health care, policing or public transport are considered a crucial state function making public bureaucratic action the locus of government power. Max Weber famously argued that the state is that which controls the monopoly on the legitimate use of force. The military and police carry out enforcement at the request of the government or the courts.
Business speculators using trusts had just recently caused a stock market crash. Strict duties for trustees made their way into company law and were applied to directors and chief executive officers. Another example of a trustee’s duty might be to invest property wisely or sell it. This is especially the case for pension funds, the most important form of trust, where investors are trustees for people’s savings until retirement.
Formal legal rationality was his term for the key characteristic of the kind of coherent and calculable law that was a precondition for modern political developments and the modern bureaucratic state. Weber saw this law as having developed in parallel with the growth of capitalism. Other notable early legal sociologists included Hugo Sinzheimer, Theodor Geiger, Georges Gurvitch and Leon Petrażycki in Europe, and William Graham Sumner in the U.S. Criminal law, also known as penal law, pertains to crimes and punishment. Investigating, apprehending, charging, and trying suspected offenders is regulated by the law of criminal procedure. The paradigm case of a crime lies in the proof, beyond reasonable doubt, that a person is guilty of two things.
- Consumer law could include anything from regulations on unfair contractual terms and clauses to directives on airline baggage insurance.
- A Europe-wide Law Merchant was formed so that merchants could trade with common standards of practice rather than with the many splintered facets of local laws.
- In medieval England, the Norman conquest the law varied shire-to-shire, based on disparate tribal customs.
- Some common law systems, including Australia, are moving away from the idea of consideration as a requirement.
In exceptional circumstances defences can apply to specific acts, such as killing in self defence, or pleading insanity. Another example is in the 19th-century English case of R v Dudley and Stephens, which Law News tested a defence of “necessity”. Three crew members and Richard Parker, a 17-year-old cabin boy, were stranded on a raft. They argued it was necessary to kill the cabin boy to preserve their own lives.
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Most countries have systems of appeal courts, with an apex court as the ultimate judicial authority. In the United States, this authority is the Supreme Court; in Australia, the High Court; in the UK, the Supreme Court; in Germany, the Bundesverfassungsgericht; and in France, the Cour de Cassation. For most European countries the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg can overrule national law, when EU law is relevant. The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg allows citizens of the Council of Europe member states to bring cases relating to human rights issues before it. Common law originated from England and has been inherited by almost every country once tied to the British Empire (except Malta, Scotland, the U.S. state of Louisiana, and the Canadian province of Quebec).
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In post-modern theory, civil society is necessarily a source of law, by being the basis from which people form opinions and lobby for what they believe law should be. Many Muslim countries have developed similar rules about legal education and the legal profession, but some still allow lawyers with training in traditional Islamic law to practice law before personal status law courts. In China and other developing countries there are not sufficient professionally trained people to staff the existing judicial systems, and, accordingly, formal standards are more relaxed. Modern military, policing and bureaucratic power over ordinary citizens’ daily lives pose special problems for accountability that earlier writers such as Locke or Montesquieu could not have foreseen. The custom and practice of the legal profession is an important part of people’s access to justice, whilst civil society is a term used to refer to the social institutions, communities and partnerships that form law’s political basis.
Given the trend of increasing global economic integration, many regional agreements—especially the African Union—seek to follow a similar model. In the EU, sovereign nations have gathered their authority in a system of courts and the European Parliament. These institutions are allowed the ability to enforce legal norms both against or for member states and citizens in a manner which is not possible through public international law.