LS208 United States Legal System and Law

Running head: Legal System

United States Legal System and Law


United States Legal System and Law

In the United States there is a three-tier system with the United States Constitution on top and the three branches that follow are the Legislative, Judicial, and Executive branch. Under the Legislative branch there is the House of Representatives and the Senate (FindLaw, n.d.). Under the Judicial branch you have the U.S. Supreme Court and lower courts. And under the Executive branch you have the President. In the United States you have the federal laws and state laws that are created at each level of government (FindLaw, n.d.). These laws are created by Congress and the state legislatures which are called statutes, really just a fancy name for laws. It is the job of the Judicial branch to enforce statutes, this branch can also create laws called case laws. The legal system that we have now works for the United States, however it is far from perfect. Congress serve far longer than they should, they serve lobbyist and not the people that got them elected. Power and money can let you walk free from criminal charges, while poor and under privileged individuals in the same situations will do time. Our system can be corrupt at times and compassioned at others. It is like they say on tv…there are two different justice systems, one for those with money and one for those without.

There are four assumptions in the study of law in today’s society. The most important assumption is that the legal system is autonomous…it is not. This assumption would state that the legal system operates under its own rules, that it changes and develops according to its own programing (Barkan, 2009). This would not be true because things like culture and politics play a role in how the law actually functions (Barka, 2009).

The law has both functions and dysfunctions to it. On the function side of the law is social control and dispute resolutions. Social Control entails rules of behavior that should be followed by the members of a society (Law Teacher, 2018). This is behavior that is considered socially desirable but not compulsory. Dispute resolutions refers to a process that is used to resolve a conflict or a dispute. This is an alternative to having a judge or jury decide the dispute in a trial. On the dysfunctional side of the law, the law could reflect the moral values of a certain influential social group (Law Teacher, 2018). This takes place over the consensus in society as a whole. It is the power and influence that gets expressed in the law, when the law should serve the greatest good of society. Another form of dysfunction in the law is when the law complicates matter more then it eases them. When a law is created and it is formed to ideally help people and groups settle different kinds of disputes, it may show evidence that the law may cause more harm then good. In some cases, the parties may try to avoid using the law for dispute settlement.

An early definition of law comes from a man named John Austin, a British legal philosopher of the nineteenth century. Austin stated that law is no more or less than the command of a sovereign (Barkan, 2009). This limits law to the executive branch and ignores the large amount of laws that come from legislatures and by the rulings of the judges along with the administrative and regulatory sources. To relates to my assumption because the way that I see it is that the Executive branch sometimes creates and executive order when they want to create a law that Congress does not want to pass or cannot pass based on their numbers. This also relates to the dysfunctional law that can cases more harm then good. An example would be when President Obama created the DACA program by executive order and President Trump wanted to cancel it. This created more problems in the legal sense because it has been moving through the court systems.

Another definition of law is from Donald J. Black who stated that law is governmental social control (Barkan, 2009). This is implied that the government cannot be subjected to the law. I understand this as to why a civilian cannot sue the government unless the government says that they can. This means that the government has sovereign immunity, and that the Federal Tort Claims Act applies (Goguen, 2019). I can understand this to be a dysfunction to the law, but also if it was not there you could have many individuals suing the government all of the time and then nothing would get completed.

In conclusion our system of legal law is acceptable…at least for right now. There are many things that need to be changed or worked out over time. We looked at many different definitions of law, and who created those definitions. We covered some of the functions of the laws social control and dispute resolutions. But they are also dysfunctions in the law such as some laws that are created can help people and hurt others. That laws can do more harm than good. We covered that legal system and how it works, that it can work better for the rich and powerful and it can work against the weak and the poor. In closing we have the system we have its not perfect…but it’s not bad either. We can make it better overtime but only if we as a society work on making it better for all citizens not just for some.


Barkan, S. E. (2009). Law and Society, An Introduction. Retrieved November 18, 2019, from!/4/2@0:13!/4/2@0:13.

FindLaw. (n.d.). The U.S. Legal System. Retrieved November 18, 2019, from

Goguen, D. (2019). Suing the Government for Negligence: The Federal Tort Claims Act. Retrieved November 18, 2019, from

Law Teacher. (2018, February 2). Six Main Functions of Laws. Retrieved November 18, 2019, from

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