Understanding the Basics of the Legal System

Understanding the Basics of the Legal System

A legal explanation on the basics of the legal system and how it works

Understanding the legal system may seem complex and daunting, but several key concepts can provide assistance: equal justice, due process and presumption of innocence.

Constitution and statute law form the core of our legal system, while judges interpret them according to their personal beliefs and the context in which they operate.

Every individual state or provincial jurisdiction across common law countries will have local laws, but they will also be under the ‘umbrella’ of statutory or constitutional law.

This article, for instance, is written by lawyers who provide Legal services in Brampton and who can provide access to qualified professionals who can help navigate the system and help ensure your rights are protected.

Other territorial or state laws will equally involve the need to consult with legal experts familiar with the laws in those areas.

But what about the actual legal system itself and how it applies to anyone affected by the law?

What is the Legal System?

The legal system is an administrative procedure used to create and enforce law. It includes courts, lawyers and citizens. Furthermore, its principles include equal justice, due process, adversary system and presumption of innocence.

Nations have different legal systems. In some, such as the US, law derives from constitutional and statutory statutes as well as case law (judicial precedent). Other nations utilise civil law which organizes laws into systematic written codes.

There is a key difference between statutory and common law but both forms of law-making and enforcement are followed by most countries in the world.

In common law countries of old, judges were considered legislative authorities; cases were decided on both legal and equitable grounds, necessitating carefully-drafted opening pleadings to fit within specific legal categories and permitting decisions either binding on other judges in that same jurisdiction or having only non-binding persuasive effects.

Common law involves laws based upon cases and precedents rather than codified (statutory) law. It emerged after the Middle Ages in England and has become the center of law in common law jurisdictions.

Sources of Law

Law can come from many different sources, with constitutions (both federal and state), statutes, and common law being among the primary ones. Constitutions generally take precedence over other forms of legislation passed by legislative bodies such as Congress or state legislatures; however, rules can determine when one source takes priority over another.

Statutes are more precise than the Constitution and are composed of clear statements of law that judges interpret.

Judges can create their own law when there are no other sources available such as when determining what types of evidence are needed to establish something; this practice is known as case law (or judge-made law) while following set principles (known as stare decisis) they can create precedent binding upon future judges – which can create precedent binding on future ones as well.


Courts serve to resolve legal disputes. They’re designed to determine whether Bill Jones ran a red light before colliding with John Smith’s car or whether Frank Williams actually did rob a bank.

Furthermore, courts also provide a peaceful platform to resolve personal matters people are unable to resolve themselves such as divorce and custody disputes.

Courts operate independently from both legislative and executive branches of government, yet often collaborate.

Court proceedings generally follow an adversarial process where each side presents its best arguments to a fact finder (judge or jury) while simultaneously highlighting any flaws in their opponent’s. Court decisions impact more than just those involved directly – they set precedents that show other judges how to rule similar cases, while depending on the system of law in play they could even become binding on government itself.


Trials are formal examinations of evidence presented before a court, often before a jury. Both sides can call witnesses and cross-examine them; then, after deliberation by a judge, an official ruling will be rendered by him or her.

Trials remain vital tools for ascertaining truth; however, institutionally they are becoming less common due to Supreme Court decisions which make case disposition by motion more likely and parties in civil cases favor readily available alternatives.

Many judges and scholars are alarmed at this trend, leading some to speculate as to its ramifications. Recently, one federal judge noted that trials had become so rare during her four years on the bench – she herself only ever witnessed one trial!


Every justice system in existence today includes certain core principles that define their approach to cases – for instance, clearly defining and establishing crimes beyond reasonable doubt, only convicting persons when evidence of guilt exists, and conducting fair trials are among them.

As it is essential that people understand the difference between “justice” and “judge,” it is also crucial that people recognize its implications.

Justices from final courts of appeal tend to insist that they do not identify as judges while other justices call themselves judges and correct people who call them justices. Both terms share similar roots yet entered English at different points over time.

Source: Vilkhov Law, Canada

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