Researching a Dynamic Legal System Shaped by Long-Lasting Principles

For Blackstone, “law is a rule of civil conduct [ … ] commanding what is right and prohibiting what is wrong.” (Commentaries, Introduction, 1753) A century later, O.W. Holmes, Jr. wrote in the “The Path of the Law,” 10 //Harvard Law Review// 457, 457 (1897), that when “we study law we are not studying a mystery [ … ] The means of the study are a body of reports; of treatises, and of statutes [ … ].” In this vein, this wiki introduces you to the study of law, in its ever changing external manifestation.

If law resides in cases, treatises, statutes, and administrative rules, if law is international and domestic, then, this wiki will explain how to find the specific norm you are interested in. Often that means finding the connection between various facets of what constitutes law domestically and internationally. If you had no exposure to US law, this wiki will inform you, so you can learn and eventually excel as a legal researcher.

For example, domestically, the United States legal system reflects the federal structure of its government. Laws come from the federal judiciary, the federal court system and the federal branch of the administrative when Congress passes a statute following the usual congressional procedure, and it thus exercises publicly justifiable power, we accept the rule contained in that statute as being law. In the words of the renowned legal philosopher H.L.A. Hart, we recognize it as valid, as legitimate, and we obey it. Few inquire into the merits of a piece of legislation and even fewer challenge it, even though its merits may be arguable. A thorough researcher will update his statutory results with a search for all relevant court decisions and subsequent statutory amendments. But, to be binding all norms need not violate any constraints imposed by the “rule of law.”

The next examples show the cultural and social role statutes play in the American society, and how their lifespan depends on their perceived value within the American democracy.



American Law Has Both an Abstract and a Concrete Facet; Only the Latter Constitutes the Object of Legal Research

Legal Norms Are Dynamic -- The Impact of Judicial and Congressional Scrutiny


  1. Judicial and Congressional Review of Statutory Rules
  2. Judicial and Congressional Review of Court Decisions
  3. Judicial Review of Administrative Decisions