The U.S. Legislative System


The Sources of U.S. Law
  1. The U.S. Constitution – and state constitutions.
  2. Congressional statutes.
  3. Common law.
  4. Administrative law.
  5. Executive orders.


The U.S. Constitution

It is the supreme law of the land.

It was framed in 1787 and ratified in 1789.

The U.S. Constitution establishes the character and principles of government:

    Article 1 defines the legislature.

    Article 2 defines the executive branch.

    Article 3 defines the court/judicial system.

    Article 4 defines state powers and limits.



Statutes are the laws enacted by the U.S. Congress. These laws define:

    Criminal law.

    Copyright laws.

    Broadcasting rules.

    Advertising rules.

    Access to public information, etc.


Common Law

These are the laws that originate from the court system.

They are based on custom and precedent.

They are based on a problem-solving approach.

Courts follow each other's guidelines and rulings.

Higher court rulings are binding to all lower court rulings.

However, courts can modify precedent.

Courts can also overturn precedent.


Administrative Law

These are the laws and bylaws passed by federal and state government agencies. Examples       include:

      Conduct hearings.

      Dispute resolution.

      Levying penalties and fines.

      These laws also allow for an appeals process.

      Some appeals can be heard in court.

Examples of agencies include; the FCC, FDA, EPA, Department of Homeland Security, etc.


Executive Orders

These are orders signed by:

    The U.S. President.



Examples include order that determine:

    Media access to Military zones.

    Classification of records.

    City curfews.

    States of emergency.


topics | Home