A legal system is an ordered process or procedure for interpreting and legally enforcing the laws of a nation. There are literally hundreds of legal systems on earth. At the international level, international law is of high importance, whether established by the creation of sovereign states or through diplomatic accords and treaties. For example, most nations at some point have signed the Protocols of the Red Cross on cooperation in case of medical emergencies. Also, the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treating the Emergencies of International Armed Forces applies to the cases of injury or loss of life or damage to civilian objects that may occur in an area where peace forces are deployed. These protocols, and there are others that have been adopted by States since they were first codified in 1977, form the foundation of customary international humanitarian law.

Most of the legal systems on earth have evolved through the interaction of customary rules with the more stringent rules of traditional law developed through the actions and pronouncements of a governing body such as a country’s or state’s legislature. In many instances, it is the latter that have become the source of legal rules. For instance, many governments have enacted constitutional texts which restrict freedoms of speech and other rights based on religious beliefs. Religious freedom is usually considered to be one of the most important values to be upheld by human beings.

A legal principle refers to a rule or principle, which is typically written down in a legal document such as a constitution, bill of rights, or other law code. A legal rule is then a rule that is recognized as having been universally accepted as being true regardless of individual cases. A legal principle is thus a rule whose application is intended to govern the conduct of all people within a society. The use of these principles in a polity thus signifies that a government is organized on the basis of a pure theory of law – a theory that all citizens must obey and follow regardless of personal opinions.

Constitutions are legally binding legal documents prepared by a constitutional assembly. The formulation of the constitution therefore determines the extent to which the legislature can impose laws. Generally, the constitution does not limit the authority of the legislature to pass laws that are not specified in the constitution. However, in a specialized constitutional body such as that of a special majority, the constitution may specify the limit of authority to a certain extent. For instance, the constitution of Sri Lanka specifies that a special majority must have a clear mandate from the people before it can go into opposition. Such a constitution allows a special majority to come into government via a general election provided there are enough valid voters.

Private law also plays an important role in determining the interpretation of law in any country. This refers to the field of personal law, including matters such as divorce, property, adoption, marriage, surrogacy, and child abuse. While divorce is normally a private matter, certain states allow same-sex marriages, for instance. Consequently, persons who hold both gay and straight lifestyles in Sri Lanka might find themselves at odds with the legal systems of different states where they reside.

Lexicology refers to the study of language. In the context of the definition of legalis, lexicology indicates the history of development of legal ideas. Thus, it attempts to trace the evolution of law from ancient times to present times. In English, lexicology provides the definition of legalis as the study of legal texts in print. Thus, lawyers, historians, and others use lexicology to analyze and interpret legal texts from the past to the present.

By Arlene Huff

Arlene Huff is the founding member of Golden State Online. Before that She was a general assignment reporter. A native Californian, she graduated from the University of California with a degree in medical anthropology and global health. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

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