What Is the Law?

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Lecture Week One (PowerPoint Attached) Chapter 1


What is the Law?

In a singular sense, law consists of mandatory rules promulgated by the government that regulate societal  conduct In a plural sense, law establishes how society is governed, allowing society to function.

Schools of Jurisprudential Thought


The science or philosophy of law is jurisprudence

Jurisprudence deals with the question “What should be the law?" as opposed to the question “What is the law?”

There are multiple schools of jurisprudence, many not presented in the textbook

The textbook examines the following schools (see Concept Summary 1.1, p.4):

a.      Natural Law

b.      Positivist

c.       Historical

d.      Legal Realism

The Natural Law School

Natural law denotes a system of moral principles that are inherent in human nature. The moral principles are usually identified through belief in God and a religious system, or through the application of human reason

For example, consider the Declaration of Independence

Positive Law

Analyze King’s last quote under positive law and legal realism, pages 3-4 in the textbook

Jurisprudence Question

Under the schools of jurisprudential thought, how would you analyze the following section from the California Constitution (a section under current court review)?

Cal. Const., Art. I § 7.5 (2010) § 7.5.  - Marriage validity limited to man and woman Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

Sources of American Law

At the federal level, the primary sources of law include the Constitution, federal statutes and regulations, and executive orders

At the state level, the same sources of law exist – a constitution, statutes, etc.

State courts also create law through the common law process, a power the federal government lacks