Law is a set of rules that people use to organize their lives, protect their property, and resolve disputes. It is the foundation for healthy communities of justice and opportunity, and it requires adherence to principles of supremacy of law, equality before the law, accountability to the law, legal certainty, transparency, participation in decision-making, separation of powers, and the avoidance of arbitrariness.
Many branches of law exist, and each deals with a specific type of agreement, relationship, or crime. For example, contract law regulates agreements to exchange goods or services, and it includes everything from buying a bus ticket to trading options on the derivatives market. Property law defines people’s rights and duties toward tangible property, such as their houses or cars, as well as intangible assets like bank accounts or shares of stock. Criminal law addresses offenses against the state, such as murder or fraud.
In addition to the practical uses of law, some legal systems seek to embody ethical ideals in their practices. The judicial branch of the US government, for instance, strives to be objective in its judgments by adhering to the Holmesian principle of bettabilitarian law—which holds that all participants will receive the same results from any experiment.
Other legal practices include impeachment, the process by which a member of Congress calls into question the conduct of a senior government official; inculpatory evidence, evidence that tends to prove that a defendant committed a crime; settlement, when parties to a lawsuit agree to resolve their dispute without going to trial; and sidebar, a meeting between judge and lawyers held outside the earshot of spectators.