Law is the system of rules created and enforced by a government, which citizens must obey. It includes a wide range of activities, from punishing people who break the law to ensuring that people’s rights are respected. For example, a law might prohibit murder because it is against the community’s conscience. A person who breaks the law may be punished, for example by getting fined or put in jail.
A legal system oriented to rights treats the individual as its primary unit of concern (Lyons 1970; Sumner 1987: 27-29). Rights are first-order norms that determine what right-holders ought or can do. Second-order norms – privileges and powers – determine whether right-holders can change or impose the relevant standards on others.
In the broad sense, law also includes the body of laws that govern a community and the way in which those laws are administered (see legal systems). A person who studies law is called a lawyer or a jurist.
A legal action brought against someone who has broken a rule is a lawsuit. The participants in a lawsuit are known as litigants. A lawsuit starts when a plaintiff files a complaint against a defendant. The judge who hears the case is the trial court judge. The defendants and plaintiffs are represented by lawyers, whose job is to present evidence in the case to prove that their side of the story is correct. The trial court judge may ask the jury to decide the case in a process called a voir dire.