Essay about United States and State Law

Submitted By Donfran97
Words: 304
Pages: 2

8. The American legal system has several layers, more possibly than in most other nations. One reason is the division between federal and state law. To understand this, it helps to recall that the United States was founded not as one nation, but as a union of 13 colonies, each claiming independence from the British Crown. The Declaration of Independence (1776) thus spoke of “the good People of these Colonies” but also pronounced that “these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, free and independent state.” The tension between one people and several states is a perennial theme in American legal history. As explained below, the U.S. Constitution (adopted 1787, ratified 1788) began a gradual and at timeshotly contested shift of power and legal authority away from the states and toward the federal government. Still, even today states retain substantial authority. Any student of the American legal system must under- stand how jurisdiction is apportioned between the federal government and the states.

The Constitution fixed many of the boundaries between federal and state law. It also divided federal power among legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government (thus creating a “separation of powers” between each branch and enshrining a system of “checks-and-balances” to prevent any one branch from overwhelming the others), each of which contributes distinctively to the legal system. Within that system, the Constitution delineated the kinds of laws that