A paralegal or legal assistant must become familiar with the Rule of Law, the Constitution and Bill of Rights in order to build a foundation of legal knowledge. The paralegal should also know how the rules of law are created, the formula for creating a rule of law, the four types of rules and where the rules come from. With this foundation, a paralegal will be ready to assist their attorney counterparts while preparing cases and during trials.
The United States Constitution is the supreme "Rule of Law." No federal or state law may violate the Constitution. The "Rule of Law" is defined under the principle that all people are created equal and are accountable under the law, a law that is fair to all. This is the principle of government by law. The â€œRule of Lawâ€ has four universal principles according to the World Justice Project.
Accountability - "the government as well as private actors are accountable under the law."
Just Laws - "the laws are clear, publicized, stable, and just; are applied evenly; and protect fundamental rights, including the security of persons and property and certain core human rights."
Open Government - "the process by which the laws are enacted, administered, and enforced are accessible, fair and efficient."
Accessible & Impartial Dispute Resolution - "justice is delivered timely by competent, ethical, and independent representatives and neutrals who are accessible, have adequate resources, and reflect the makeup of the communities they serve."
The Constitution of the United States
The Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787 by the delegates of the Constitutional Convention. The Bill of Rights offered 10 initial amendments to the Constitution that guaranteed basic individual rights and became part of the Constitution in 1791.
Bill of Rights
The Bill of Rights amends the Constitution to address specific guarantees of personal freedoms and rights and clear limitations of government power. According to Whitehouse.gov, the 10 amendments to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights include:
The First Amendment - freedom of religion and protection of the freedom of speech, press, assembly and the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The Second Amendment - the right to bear arms.
The Third Amendment - prohibits the government from quartering troops in private homes.
The Fourth Amendment - protects US citizens from unreasonable search and seizure.
The Fifth Amendment - the right to due process before criminal prosecution and punishment. Protection from double jeopardy and the right to remain silent.
The Sixth Amendment - the right to a speedy trial by a jury of one's peers, knowing the crime accused of and the ability to confront witnesses during a trial.
The Seventh Amendment - civil cases must also be tried by a jury.
The Eighth Amendment - prohibits excessive bail, excessive fines and cruel and unusual punishment.
The Ninth Amendment - states that the list of rights in the Constitution are not fixed and may be added to.
The Tenth Amendment - assigns all power not delegated to the United States, or prohibited to the states, to either the states or to the people of the United States.
Inside a Rule of Law
A basic rule of law is a formula for making a decision. For example: A person who is driving a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol over the legal limit is guilty of DUI. Most rules have three components, including a set of elements, a result and causal term.
A Set of Elements - driving a motor vehicle + blood alcohol over the legal limit
A result - what happens when all of the elements are present; guilty of DUI.
A causal term - determining whether the result is mandatory, prohibitory, discretionary or declaratory.
One or more exceptions - some rules have exceptions that if satisfied would prevent the result.
The Four Types of Rules
Almost all rules fit into the categories that include mandatory rules, prohibitory rules, discretionary rules and declaratory rules.
Mandatory Rules - a legal rule that is not subject to contrary agreement. A legal rule that requires someone to act.
Prohibitory Rules - a legal rule that forbids someone to act.
Discretionary Rules - a legal rule that gives someone the power or authority to do something.
Declaratory Rules - a legal rule that states that something is true.
Where do Rules Come From?
The US legal system has two primary sources of law, they include statutes and case law.
Statutes - legislatures create rules of law by enacting statutes. Congress enacts federal statutes and each state has a legislature to enact state statutes. After the President signs a bill into law it is prepared for publication as a slip law. Federal statues are published initially as individual slip laws, then in compilations of slip laws known as session laws and finally as codified law incorporated into a code. The Code of Laws of the United States is the official compilation and codification of the federal statutes of the United States.
Case Law - a past decision is considered a precedent, which later courts, are required to take into account. In common law systems, most courts are bound by their own previous decisions and lower courts should be consistent with previous decisions of higher courts. The Supreme Court being the highest court in the United States. The most cited case law by the US Supreme Court includes:
- Brown v Board of Education - case law that set a precedent declaring state laws that establish separate public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional. The ruling set the standard for integration as a major victory for the Civil Rights Movement.
- Roe v Wade - case law that set a precedent that recognized that the constitutional right to privacy extends to a woman's right to make her own personal medical decisions, with the ability to have an abortion without the interference from politicians.
- Miranda v Arizona - established Miranda rights for any person that is arrested and interrogated while in police custody. The person has a right to a silence warning given by police in the United States, while in police custody. "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, one will be appointed to you by the court. With these rights in mind, are you still willing to talk with me about the charges against you?" MirandaWarrning..
Interested in learning more about the rule of law, laws of the land and how they are created? The paralegal is a crucial piece of any legal support team. Paralegals conduct expert legal research, draft documents, maintaining files, interact with clients as well as provide administrative support. The Paralegal Studies program introduces students to the essential computer applications necessary to the legal field.
Contact us today to learn more about becoming a paralegal or legal assistant.