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Every country has its own historically developing system of norms, legal institutions and branches of law, which regulates different types of social relations. In order to understand different aspects of a system of law it is necessary to look at various classifications of law, as branches of law are traditionally considered to be the most important elements of this system. Numerous classifications that vary from country to country usually reflect the peculiarities of different systems of law. Nevertheless there are the most common divisions singled out by contemporary jurists. Thus law is frequently classified into public and private and substantive and procedural.
The distinction is often made between public and private law. Public law governs the relationship between the state and an individual, who is either a company or a citizen. Public law covers three subdivisions: constitutional, administrative and criminal law.
Constitutional law deals with the structure of the government and the relations between private citizens and the government.
Administrative law deals with the decision-making of administrative units of government (for example, tribunals, boards or commissions) in such areas as police law, international trade, manufacturing, the environment, taxation, immigration and transport.
Criminal law, or penal law, is the body of law that relates to crime, i.e. illegal conduct that is prohibited by the state and sets out the punishment to be imposed on those who break these laws. A crime is considered to be an offence against the public, although the actual victim may be an individual. This is because the state considers anti-social behaviour not simply as a matter between two individuals but as a danger to the well-being and order of society as a whole.
Private law is also known as civil law. It involves relationships between individuals, or private relationships between citizens and companies. The main branches of private law are contract, tort, family, employment and land law.
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Contract law deals with legally binding agreements between people or companies that are called parties to a contract.
Tort law deals with civil wrongs which result in physical, emotional or financial harm to a person or property. Tort cases comprise road accidents, defamation, product liability (for defective consumer products), copyright infringement, environmental pollution (toxic torts), etc.
Family law is an area of the law that deals with family-related issues such as marriage and divorce, adoption, custody of children, child abuse and alimony.
Employment law is law relating to the employment of workers, their contracts, conditions of work, trade unions and legal aspects of industrial relations. Employment law is also called labour law.
Land law is the law which deals with rights and interests related to owning and using land. Land is the most important form of property, so the name land law is often used for the law of property.
The next classification which is widely used is subdivision of law into substantive and procedural. There are many laws and legal rules found in statutes, cases decided by courts (legal precedents) and other sources that are applied by courts in order to decide lawsuits. These rules and principles of law are classified as substantive law. On the other hand, the legal procedures that provide how lawsuit is begun, how the trial is conducted, how appeals are filed, and how a judgment is enforced are called procedural law. In other words, substantive law is the part of the law that defines rights, and procedural law establishes the procedures which enforce and protect these rights. For example, two parties entered into a contract, but then one of the parties breached this contract. The rules of bringing the breaching party into court and the conduct of the trial are rather mechanical and constitute procedural law. Whether the agreement was enforceable and whether the other party is entitled to damages are matters of substance and will be determined on the basis of the substantive law of contract.
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