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Laws, Rules & Legal Research
If you represent yourself in court, you are responsible for knowing the law and rules. Representing yourself is risky because each step in the process may have consequences that you might not think about. You should get legal advice.
What is a "law?"
In the U.S., there is a Federal Constitution and individual State Constitutions. These written documents created the powers, duties and limits of the government, and the rights of people within the U.S. Constitutions are a part of the "law."
Statutes and Administrative Rules
Statutes and Administrative Rules, also known as “black letter law,” are laws written by the Legislative body of government on many topics. Statutes and Administrative Rules usually direct or command that certain actions be carried out, or that certain actions are prohibited.
Case law, also known as "common law," refers to decisions put in writing by judges. The written decisions are called court “opinions.” The legal system of the U.S. is based on the common law tradition, and this means that judges usually must rely on case law (prior written decisions) to determine how laws, including statutes and rules, are to be understood and applied to the facts of new cases. Judges in lower courts, such as trial courts, usually have to make decisions that agree with the case law (i.e., opinions) from higher courts, such as the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals.
The Supreme Court writes many kinds of Rules that set out procedures for how courts function and what parties must do to have their cases handled in court.
Laws and Rules
Other Legal Resources
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