Sources of Law in the United States

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What is the primary source of law in the United States?

What is the role of English common law in the United States?

How did the number of published volumes of American reports change from 1810 to 1910?

What was the complaint of the delegates to the California constitutional convention?

Is foreign law cited as binding precedent in American courts?

Summary

  • The law in the United States is derived from five sources: constitutional law, statutory law, treaties, administrative regulations, and the common law.

  • The Constitution prohibits laws that conflict with it, and state and federal courts may rule that a statute is unconstitutional and invalid.

  • English common law is the law of the United States to the extent that it is not repugnant to domestic law or indigenous conditions, and some reception statutes have been enacted.

  • American courts often cite pre-Revolution cases from England, and lawyers and judges used English legal materials to fill the gap during the 18th and 19th centuries.

  • Citations to English decisions gradually disappeared during the 19th century, and the number of published volumes of American reports soared from eighteen in 1810 to over 8,000 by 1910.

  • The delegates to the California constitutional convention were complaining about how much detail the judges were requiring in their decisions.

  • Today, in the words of Stanford law professor Lawrence M. Friedman, "American cases rarely cite foreign materials."

  • Foreign law has never been cited as binding precedent, but as a reflection of the shared values of Anglo-American civilization or even Western civilization in general.

Description

Test your knowledge of the sources of law in the United States and the evolution of legal influences from England to the present day. Explore constitutional law, statutory law, treaties, administrative regulations, and common law.

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