Law serves many important purposes, ranging from maintaining peace in a nation to protecting minority rights, promoting social justice, and ensuring orderly social change. Some legal systems are better than others at serving these purposes. For example, authoritarian regimes often use law as a means of oppressing minorities and political opponents. Empire-building nations such as Spain, Britain, Germany, and France have often used law to impose peace in foreign lands.
Civil law is a system of law that originated in mainland Europe, and later was adopted by most of the world. It originated as a system of laws that were intellectualized within the Roman law system. Generally, it is a referable system, which serves as the primary source of law.
The common law is the body of law created by judges, not legislatures. Unlike statutes, common law is composed of written opinions and judgments.
Private law fills a critical gap in the legislative process, but it faces additional, more fundamental, challenges. These challenges include the intransigence of courts in the face of legislation and the instrumentalists’ disavowal of any pretense of neutrality. It also faces a practical politics of adjudication that squares off with legislative policy without apology.
Administrative law is a branch of public law that governs the executive branch of the government. Its main functions include rule-making, adjudication, and enforcement of laws. Many scholars consider administrative law to be one of the most important branches of public law.
Space law deals with the laws and principles governing space activities. It includes domestic rules and international agreements.
Tax law is the study of the rules used by public authorities to assess and collect taxes. This branch of law is a vast and fascinating subject.
Religious law is the ethical code that is taught by a religious tradition. The religious legal codes vary from one tradition to the next. Some religious systems reject all positive law, while others expressly support it. In Christianity, for example, the religious law emphasizes the eternal moral precepts of the divine law, though its judicial and civil aspects have often been dissolved.