Street Law: A Course in Practical Law

Chapter 2: Lawmaking

Chapter Overviews

Legislatures make laws in the United States. However, the executive and judicial branches of government also have a role in lawmaking. Sometimes, government agencies, appellate courts, and even voters themselves can act as lawmakers.

Legislatures Federal and state legislatures and local lawmaking bodies all have the power to pass laws. Federal law usually prevails when statutes conflict. Lawmaking bodies respond to the needs of citizens by introducing legislation in the form of bills. When bills are approved and passed by legislatures, they become laws. If disputes arise regarding the meaning of laws, they may be resolved in court.

Agencies Legislative bodies usually write only general laws. Government agencies then develop rules and regulations that make laws more specific. Although rules made by government agencies become law without being voted on by lawmakers, the agencies themselves often hold public hearings before issuing proposed rules and regulations.

Courts Courts also make laws by establishing precedents. A person who loses a trial can sometimes ask a higher court to review and change the result of that trial. When an appellate court decides a case, its written opinion sets a precedent for similar cases in the future.

International Lawmaking In addition, international laws are established through treaties, or agreements between countries. Various international laws regulate international commerce, ownership of property, and other multinational issues. The United Nations, formed in 1945, maintains a system of international courts and has become the most important international law institution.

Glencoe Online Learning CenterSocial Studies HomeProduct InfoSite MapContact Us

The McGraw-Hill CompaniesGlencoe