Law of the United States
The law of the United States comprises many levels of codified and uncodified forms of
Federal law and treaties, so long as they are in accordance with the Constitution, preempt conflicting state and territorial laws in the 50
At both the federal and state levels, with the exception of the state of
Notably, a statute does not automatically disappear merely because it has been found unconstitutional; it may, however, be deleted by a subsequent statute. Many federal and state statutes have remained on the books for decades after they were ruled to be unconstitutional. However, under the principle of
Commonwealth countries are heirs to the common law legal tradition of English law. Certain practices traditionally allowed under English common law were expressly outlawed by the Constitution, such as
As common law courts, U.S. courts have inherited the principle of stare decisis. American judges, like common law judges elsewhere, not only apply the law, they also make the law, to the extent that their decisions in the cases before them become precedent for decisions in future cases.
The actual substance of English law was formally "received" into the United States in several ways. First, all U.S. states except Louisiana have enacted "
Second, a small number of important British statutes in effect at the time of the Revolution have been independently reenacted by U.S. states. Two examples are the
Despite the presence of reception statutes, much of contemporary American common law has diverged significantly from English common law. Although the courts of the various Commonwealth nations are often influenced by each other's rulings, American courts rarely follow post-Revolution Commonwealth rulings unless there is no American ruling on point, the facts and law at issue are nearly identical, and the reasoning is strongly persuasive.
Early on, American courts, even after the Revolution, often did cite contemporary English cases, because appellate decisions from many American courts were not regularly reported until the mid-19th century. Lawyers and judges used English legal materials to fill the gap. Citations to English decisions gradually disappeared during the 19th century as American courts developed their own principles to resolve the legal problems of the American people. The number of published volumes of American reports soared from eighteen in 1810 to over 8,000 by 1910. By 1879 one of the delegates to the
Today, in the words of Stanford law professor Lawrence Friedman: "American cases rarely cite foreign materials. Courts occasionally cite a British classic or two, a famous old case, or a nod to