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What are the branches of law?

We explain what are the different branches of law according to the classical division, the characteristics of each frog and its subdivisions.

What are the branches of law?

The law is the set of principles and rules governing human societies around the concepts of justice and order, and that States are able to impose coercively. But his study and analysis is also called that. In other words, the law is at the same time the legal order of societies and the discipline that studies them.

It includes a set of categories or subdisciplines, specializing in the different criteria of law enforcement , as well as in the formulation of their principles. These categories are known as the branches of law.

The classification of the right is based on three criteria , which are:

  • Because of their national or religious scope , that is, the cultural, political and historical tradition that engendered them. For example: Germanic law, Anglo-Saxon law, Roman law , etc.
  • By the specific activity that regulates , that is, depending on what specific reality the laws studied regulate. For example: military law, labor law, banking law, etc.
  • For its technical scope , that is, for the parts of the legal process they regulate. For example: civil law, criminal law, administrative law, etc.

Broadly speaking, however, the classical division between the branches of law is given following the parameters inherited from Roman jurisprudence, one of the most historically important. This means that the right is divided into three branches: public law , private law and social law , each with its particular branches.

Public Law

branches of criminal law
Criminal law is responsible for punishing the guilty and protecting the victims.

It is dedicated to controlling the way in which citizens establish links with the State , either in a personal capacity or as private organizations , or to the organization of the State Public Powers , provided that they act in a legitimate manner and within the framework of what is established in the Constitution (or its equivalent).

This division of law includes the following branches:

  • Political right . Study and regulate the exercise of politics , that is, of command and subordination, the elements and classes of state , forms of government , political philosophy and other aspects related to it.
  • Constitutional law . It is dedicated to the analysis of the fundamental rights enshrined in the Magna Carta or in the basic legal text of the society, whatever, and ensures the regulation of public powers, subjecting them to the legal.
  • Administrative Law . Dedicated to the study of public administration , that is, the regulation of the State, its public services and auxiliary bodies, which must operate in order to guarantee order, justice and security .
  • Immigration law . The one that has to do with the international transit of individuals, their nationalization, the mechanisms of foreigners and the right of entry, exit or permanence of citizens of other countries.
  • Procedural law . Dedicated to the resolution of conflicts in an orderly, legal and valid manner, between individuals and the State, or among themselves, according to the State’s ordinance and the provisions of the laws regarding the judicial process and due guarantees.
  • Public international law . It is the one that deals with the relations between the States, within the international community and their bilateral cooperation, regulation and mediation organizations in conflicts between national and international communities.
  • Tax or tax law . The one that studies the mechanisms of collection and tribute of the State.
  • Criminal law . Linked to the exercise of justice as punishment for the guilty and compensation of the victims, according to the legal code that distinguishes between what is legal and what is not.

Principles of public law

The principles of public law may vary from one State to another. However, modern legal doctrine has practically unanimously established two: the principle of legality , that is, submitting the State to compliance with the legal system, and all the principles for the maintenance of the development of the democratic State, that is, that allow the highest possible spiritual and material fulfillment.

Traditionally, the principles of public law are often contrasted with the principles of autonomy of the will and equality of parts of private law .

Principle of legality

It is a fundamental principle of public law according to which all exercise of powers must be based on legal norms that determine a competent body and a set of matters that fall under its jurisdiction. For this reason it is said that the principle of legality guarantees legal certainty .

Power of empire

The State and its organs, in their relations with individuals within public law, do not act within a level of equality, but rather within one of inequality, that is, it allows them to create obligations or suppress rights of the individual without the consent of this, derived from the sovereign position or imperium with which it appears clothed, exercising a public power …

Private right

It is responsible for the regulation of legal relations between constituted individuals , that is, subjects of law, in the condition of equals, and without the interest of the State. It is divided into three different branches:

  • Civil law . It includes the set of norms that regulate the daily life of the human being , such as family relationships or the formation or dissolution of marital ties, parental rights, maternity, private property , civil registration, and the right to usufruct and possession of the different types of goods, the individual obligations and the types of contract between people.
  • Commercial law . It deals exclusively with commercial, financial, mercantile or economic exploitation acts that occur in legal, fair and formal terms between subjects of law, whether natural or legal persons.
  • Private international law . Regulates the international operations of individuals, and regulates nationalities and possible conflicts between different legal frameworks.

Social law

branches of labor law
Labor law regulates labor conditions and contracts.

Understand and study the laws and regulations that ensure the harmonious coexistence of individuals within a society that is equal before the law, but disparate in terms of socioeconomic classes . To do this, it covers the following branches:

  • Labor law . It is responsible for regulating the conditions in which the work takes place, to ensure that they are fair, equitable and respectful of the law, as well as the possibilities of union or unionrepresentationand other aspects that concern professional practice. It comprises three sub-branches: individual labor law, collective labor law and procedural labor law.
  • Economic law . It includes the norms that regulate the participation of the State in the economic activity of a society, to provide legal certainty to the participants of the productive chain in its different stages.
  • Agrarian law . Regulates land tenure, agricultural exploitation and various forms of non-urban property.
  • Ecological law . It deals with the set of norms of defense of the environment and the ecological legacy of society, to prevent the indiscriminate and irresponsible use of natural resources or excessive pollution and severe ecological damage.

International law

The International Law ( loan translation to Latin ius gentium , law of nations’ ) is a State, consisting of principles and rules legal system through which the relations between the subjects of international law (usually states ) are regulated on the basis of equality.

The term international public law has often been used synonymously since the 19th century , which is also due to the strong influence of the English term public international law .

The most important positive legal sources of international law are the Charter of the United Nations and the general prohibition of violence set out in it , which as customary international law is also binding beyond membership in the United Nations (UN) and prohibits any state from war of aggression .

The supranational legal is considered special feature of international law because it is also organized through the state; However, due to the transfer of sovereignty to intergovernmental institutions, it has some special features that cannot be fully explained by international law.

Relationship of international law to national law

International law provisions apply to all states, regardless of whether they have consented or not. The relationship between international law and national law can only be answered in conjunction with the respective state legal system . Monism (international law and national law form a uniform order) and dualism (international law and national law are completely separate legal orders) represent two theoretical extremes that are nowhere to be found in their pure form in practice. The diagram below gives an overview of the different approaches.

The question of whether an international law norm is to be observed by the domestic user of law is decided solely on the basis of whether the respective domestic law requires an act of implementation or not. In general, however, it can be said that the domestic application of international law in all legal systems actually presupposes a sufficiently specifically formulated norm that is not only addressed to states. Such norms are referred to as self-executing (according to the correct view, however, this term is to be assigned to the respective national law, not to international law).

In Germany , according to Art. 25 S. 1 of the Basic Law, the general rules of international law are directly binding and take precedence over the laws (→  international law clause ). Article 25 of the Basic Law makes no statement about the relationship between these general rules and the provisions of the Basic Law. Universal international law encompasses the generally applicable legal provisions, not just the legal principles. Implementation in national law is not required. General international law breaks every national law in the federal and state levels , but only takes a rank below (federal) constitutional law .

International treaty law requires transformation, which usually coincides with ratification by the legislative bodies (treaty law according to Article 59 (2) of the Basic Law), whereby it is implemented in domestic law. It then has the rank of federal law.

History of International law

Parliamentary negotiations were already common in ancient times in order to reduce the consequences of battle and war. The first “international law” agreement can be understood as the prohibition of war at the time of the Olympic Games , which were understood as a panhellenic competition. The friendship and trade agreement between the kings of Ebla and Assur , which was concluded in the middle of the third millennium BC, is the oldest “international law” treaty so far that has been handed down in full .

The conquests of Alexander the Great created a Hellenistic world that created Mediterranean legal bases through artful diplomacy, which were adapted and developed by the Roman Empire and culminated in the Codex Iustinianus .

The Jesuit Francisco Suárez can be seen as a co-founder of international law. 

In 1625 Hugo Grotius summarized the rules developed up to then in his work De jure belli ac pacis (“On the law of war and peace”). They were further developed by Samuel von Pufendorf , Christian Wolff and others. Emer de Vattel summarized the state of international law towards the end of the 18th century .

In 1899 and 1907, the Hague Peace Conferences laid down international law and established the Hague Court of Arbitration. The Hague Land Warfare Code became the doctrine of international law for the two world wars of the 20th century.

One of the crucial aspects of modern international law, the prohibition of force, joined by the First World War for a long time so back, that it only after the end of the war for the first time in the Kellogg-Briand Pact ( outlawing war ) was agreed between the States . Previously, international law regarding war was limited to trying to contain atrocities and protect the civilian population. With the League of Nations (founded in 1919) and its successor organization, the United Nations (since 1945), a common international level was created for the first time, which aims to secure a binding international law for all states.

The United Nations General Assembly in New York

Milestones of ( positive ) international law are:

  • the Peace of Westphalia of 1648
  • the Peace of Utrecht of 1713
  • the Vienna Congress Act of July 9, 1815
  • the Holy Alliance of September 26, 1815
  • the Aachen congress protocol of November 21, 1818
  • the Peace of Paris of March 30, 1856
  • the Geneva Convention of August 22, 1864
  • the Petersburg Declaration of December 11, 1868
  • the Berlin Treaty of July 13, 1878
  • the Congo Act of February 26, 1885
  • the Hague Peace Conferences in 1899 and 1907
  • the Hague Land Warfare Regulations of October 18, 1907
  • the Paris suburb contracts in 1919 and 1920
  • the Briand-Kellogg Pact of August 27, 1928
  • the 1933 Montevideo Convention
  • the United Nations Charter of June 26, 1945
  • the Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949
  • the two additional protocols of June 8, 1977 to the Geneva Conventions of 1949
  • the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of December 10, 1982
  • the two-plus-four treaty of September 12, 1990
  • the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court of July 17, 1998

This traditional periodization of international law has been increasingly in motion since the turn of the last millennium, as not only states but also non-state actors gain in importance and legal pluralistic tendencies intervene. 

Different Branches of Law by areas

Branches of law by its national or religious scope

  • Roman law
  • Intermediate law , the “that was applied with common character in Europe after the reception of Roman law until the codification started in the 19th century”
  • Latin law
  • Common law
  • People’s law
  • Germanic law
  • Visigothic law
  • Anglo-Saxon law
  • Continental law
  • Pre- Hispanic or pre-Columbian law
  • Indian law
  • Colonial law
  • Canon Law (Catholic)
  • Pontifical law
  • Islamic law
  • Religious or confessional law
  • National law
  • International right
  • Community law
  • Local law
  • Regional law

Branches of law due to its technical scope

  • Public Law
  • Private right
  • Supplementary or subsidiary law .
  • Praetorian law , the “which, through the application of criteria of equity, the judges formulate completing or supplementing the provisions of the laws.”
  • Written law
  • Customary law
  • Constitutional right
  • Political right
  • Civil law
  • Criminal law
  • Procedural law
  • Administrative law

By the scope of activity that regulates

  • Military law ( military justice )
  • Family right
  • Succession right
  • Economic law
  • Financial law
  • Tax or fiscal law
  • Banking law
  • Labor , labor or social law
  • Commercial or commercial law
  • Competition law
  • Consumer law
  • Agricultural law
  • Mining law
  • Urban law
  • Environmental law
  • Transportation right or right port 
  • Law of the sea ( ocean law , maritime law , marine law , right sailor , marine law , shipping law , law of the sea )
  • River law
  • Aeronautical law
  • Space law
  • Computer law
  • Culture law
  • Health law
  • Pharmaceutical law
  • Food law

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