Preamble: We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
The Constitution of the United States is the Supreme Law of the Land. In its Preamble, it expresses where the authority of the federal government is derived from: the people. Despite all the nation's statutes, cases, regulations, and even the words of the Constitution itself, it is the will of the people that is the founding force and remains superior.
Following the Preamble, the Constitution sets out the structure of government.
All legislative Powers herein
The executive Power shall
The judicial Power of the United
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States,
are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Article I. Section 1. All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.
While the Constitution creates the foundation and framework of the legal system, the laws enacted by Congress specify its means and mechanisms. These laws provide the details that set standards for the country's activities in areas such as criminal law, commercial law, public health, and, of course, taxation.
A law created by a legislative body is called a statute. During a legislative term, Congress will pass many statutes. The various statutes passed are collected and added to already existing statutes arranged systematically in a compilation called a code. Federal statutes are codified in the United States Code.
In order for a bill to become law, it must pass both houses of Congress. An in-depth treatment of legislative procedure.
Separate from Congress, each state has its own legislative body that enacts statutes that operate concurrently with federal statutes. The basic structure of every state legislative body is similar to the federal model, although the names of the houses may vary.
Article II. Section 1. (1) The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.
The purpose of the executive branch is to enforce the laws. In doing so, the executive branch often makes additional laws to implement congressional mandates. This is primarily accomplished through the use of administrative agencies. Because of their extensive use, the secretaries of the government's major agencies (or departments) are members of the President's cabinet.
The laws created by administrative agencies are called rules or regulations. For federal agencies, these are codified in the Code of Federal Regulations. Although administrative agencies are placed under the executive branch in this document, there are agencies created under all three branches of government. In fact, most federal agencies were created by Congress and given authority to act through a process called delegation. The Administrative Procedure Act (as well as other specific statutes) specifies the steps an agency must comply with in enacting regulations.
The Executive Branch, specifically the President, also plays an important role within the government's system of checks and balances. The President may veto any bill passed by Congress. Upon veto, the bill is returned to Congress and only becomes a law if Congress overrides the veto. To do this, each house of Congress must pass the bill by a two-thirds majority.
Each state also has an executive branch led by its governor and administrative regulations.
Article III. Section 1. The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.
The primary purpose of the judicial branch is to resolve disputes. In doing so, the courts further elaborate on the details contained in legislative enactments. There are also certain areas of law whose principles have been almost entirely set by the courts through the common law.