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The United States Legal System and Constitution

The United States has unique legal system compared to other nations in the world due to its dual sovereign structure in the provision of judicial services. The judicial system has been allocated two main levels of operation ranging from federal states to the central government. Service provision varies in each federal state. Many scholars have argued differently on the nature and characteristics of United States judicial system with most emerging characteristics being its common laws heritage, the American written constitution and powers distributed in federal states. Besides, the understanding of aforementioned characteristics largely differ depending on one’s perspective since they vastly influence U.S judiciary service in the provision of legal services. Besides the above mentioned characteristics, there are other features which shape United States legal systems when providing the much needed services to its people. Regardless of the long term debate on US justice system, it is imperative to note that common laws heritage and origin, written constitution of United States and the federal states division of powers have been paramount pillars supporting legal system in United States.

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The United States Common Law

Common laws were developed in England around the 12th century as a set of traditional pieces of legislations meant to regulate individual’s behavior in the whole kingdom. These laws have since developed following determinations of individual court cases. Besides, it has created a platform where judgment on various cases can be offered. Several past decades has also witnessed several judgments being carried out using the old age judicial system. The United States judicial system has since incorporated common laws into its legal system in administering justice to the people especially in cases which are not documented (McAlinn, Rosen & Stern, 2010, p.105).

The judicial system United States has continuously relied on common laws provisions to offer judgment on issues that are not clearly enshrined in the constitution and have no statute provision. Both the state and federal courts look for customs and general practices which began centuries ago mostly from England in delivering their judgments. It has continuously developed over time. In many federal states in US, common laws has continuously assisted in resolving contract disputes since the State’s judicial system has not been able to cover every aspect of contractual contingencies (Dickinson, 2003, p.89).

The use of common laws has facilitated operation of justice in the US judicial system since it is based on fundamental principles that are used in administering justice to the people. For instance, the common laws upholds individuals rights alongside that of the state, crimes are punished as civil wrongs are and corrected through compensation, case laws are developed through judgments and it provides for innocence of an individual (McAlinn, Rosen & Stern, 2010, p. 244). Under the common laws, US judicial systems can decide the extent of punishment and compensation they can administer to the offenders bearing in mind many factors including the circumstance leading to the wrongdoing, the extent of harm caused and the conditions of the victims. Judicial systems also review other judgments which have been delivered on similar cases in the past (Hall & McGuire 2005, p 98).

Common laws in US has played crucial role in the country’s legal system following the way judgments have been delivered on various cases. Over the years, past decisions and judgments made following various civil cases has helped in shaping the US legal system which has since been adopted. Although the legal practitioners may see the common laws to be complicated in administering, the decisions passed by the judges become final and is binding to both parties. The legal system has to establish a relationship between the constitutional laws which are provided in the constitution, statutory laws and regulatory laws in administering their judgments the legal systems (Burnham, 2006)

US legal system rely much on the common laws in administering justice from cases arising from societal norms and values which are not in the constitution. In such cases, the legal system has to use common laws since they can not give judgment without a base hence they resolve to common laws. Justice may not be done to the convicts if the judgment administered is not based upon a solid ground indicating how individual broke the law.

The United States Written Constitution

The United States written constitution has facilitated administration of justice throughout the states. For instance, it provides for the separation of powers through creating boundaries between the state and the federals governments to ease the provision of the legal system. The constitution is the supreme law of the land which makes it possible for the legal system to base their arguments in relation to its provisions. The US constitution provides the basic foundation under which the courts are based which forms the legal systems of the state. The law courts derive their mandate from the US constitution which gives them the sole mandate of interpreting the constitution unless it presents issues of federal states (Hall & McGuire, 2005).

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The US constitution has shaped the legal system through the provisions of checks and balances to the federal and states laws which violates the constitution through being struck down by the judicial review of the Supreme Court which is the highest court in the land. It can be argued that the US constitution limits and acts as a check to both the state and other federal government in violation and other practices which are not provided for in the constitution (McAlinn, Rosen & Stern, 2010). The US constitution acts to correct the unethical practices in the judicial systems which are not in accordance with the constitution.

The US constitution provides for the separation of powers among the three arms of the government and this has minimized the interference of the legal system by the executives which is seen to be the most influential branch of the state. Through this, the legal system can carry out their roles with minimal interference to uphold justice in the entire state. It spells out different roles played by each government branch which intern minimizes conflicts arising from roles. This has facilitated the US legal system in carrying out their mandate of delivering services to the people.

Just like other provisions, the US constitution has many provisions which allows for the upholding of individuals rights in providing the legal systems. For instance, the constitution provides for the rights of individuals during trials which the judicial systems have to adhere to in delivering their rules. Different amendments have been introduced mostly targeting the legal system which is ultimately responsible in settling the disputes among the aggrieved parties, the constitution protects against self incrimination, prohibits the cruel punishments administered to individuals by the legal system, guarantees for speedy and fair trials by the juries. The mentioned rights of the individuals are provided for by the constitution which not only regulate the conducts of the legal systems but also influence their decisions in dealing with cases that are spelt in the constitution (Segal, Spaeth & Benesh, 2005, p.178).

Federal states

United States has two separate sets of judicial systems which independently carry out various legal issues from time to time affecting the people living in the United States. The federal courts are concentrated in the federal states and are concerned with the enforcement of the federal laws and interpretation of the entire US constitution. The court systems of several states enforce laws of a given state and interpret the constitution of a given state. The United States legal system depends on both courts in administering justice to the citizens since they work as separate entities in the whole United States.

The type of court that handle a case in US will be determined by the law that was violated and the federal state which it took place. However, most of the laws governing individual’s day to day conducts are state laws which are binding to all parties despite the individual federal state. The different courts in the United States have special mandates they carry out in dealing with the individuals and enforcing the laws, for instance, federal courts are concerned with cases including offences related to federal government employees and other crimes committed within the federal state like kidnapping among others( Hall & McGuire 2005, p.42).

The powers of the Supreme Court has enabled the United States legal systems to create a number of subordinate courts in the federal and districts which are subject to United States Supreme Court. Federal judiciaries have a number of administrative courts which the legal system entirely rely on in administering services to the citizens. It can be argued that the federal courts derive their powers from the Supreme Court though they enjoy their autonomy in discharging their duties to the people of United States (Segal, Spaeth & Benesh 2005, p.190).

The federal courts have limited powers in determining cases which are provided for in the constitution since most of the legal systems powers lies with the Supreme Court which is overall in the judicial system. The court structures in the State and the federal government has enhanced practicing of legal system in the entire State with various decisions and cases being determined at various court levels within the federal government of the states. According to the US constitution, the federal government have limited powers which are passed to the federal courts hence can hear cases involving federal constitutional and statutory issues.

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The separation of powers between the state and the federal government allows districts courts make rulings and pass judgment on conditions that crimes committed were within their geographical coverage. The legal systems in the United States are influenced mostly by the separation of powers between the state and the federal government though the federal states must use the states constitution which is the supreme law of the land (Segal, Spaeth & Benesh 2005, p.195).

Although it is evident that United States legal system is influenced by the common laws, written constitution and the separation of powers between the federal government and the state, there are some other factors which influence the legal system.

The operations of the legal system is influenced by the way they are elected to serve in the bar, in most cases, States use judicial services in electing those to serve in the judicial system and it is characterized by massive campaign among the contestants for the posts. The election criteria of the judges have continuously shaped the way justice is administered in most of the federal states in the United States. According Chemerinsky and Sample (2001), people serving in the judiciary tend to give rulings in favor of the electorates who supported them through voting them to serve in the supreme courts. Millions of dollars are spent in running television adverts by the people who have cases before the bench to get the ideal candidates who will rule in their favor.

In most cases, the electorates who are mandated to elect the judges to serve in the judiciary know less about the people they elect and mostly the voting is influenced by the misleading adverts carried out on the media. The legal system of US federal states is influenced by the voting pattern of the judges since they are not voted on the basis of competency but how much somebody can influence to lure the voters in his favor. As New York Times reported, individuals with cases on the bench campaign for the people they feel will be in their favor by tricking the common citizens to vote for those individuals to serve in the judicial system with the voters knowing very little if any about the candidate.

Attack on Judicial Appointees

The conducts of some influential personalities in the congress has been affecting the legal system in administering justice to the citizens. As it was reported, the influential personalities challenges the independence of judges and the freedoms of the citizens through questioning the judges decisions made which does not meet their expectations like in the recent scenario where a republican criticized their court on its ruling. The attempts by some members of the congress to retaliate judges decisions is a mockery to the constitution and this has made the legal system exercise their independence in fear of getting attacked from the outside forces who are influential.

The increased death threats against judges and other legal personalities have continuously affected their delivery of service. The threats and the actions mostly originate from high profile senators who feel the judges decisions do not meet their expectations or is not in their favor. In many occasions, some members of the congress have attempted to bring judicial reforms, recommendations on the stripping of judges and even cutting the judicial budget aimed at punishing the judges. The political influence emanating from the political class has significantly influenced the United States legal systems since many judges resorts to serving their masters to free themselves from attacks. The dictatorship of some individuals who want the court to act on their favor is destruction to the legal system of United States.


One cannot deny the important role played by United States legal system in administering justice to its people. The legal system borrows much of its practices from common laws which was adopted from the British kingdom in early 12th century and it has been continuously used by the United States legal system in administering justice to the public. Through the common laws, US legal systems have been able to borrow much in dealing with cases which are not documented in the constitution. The common laws have been universally applied by the legal practitioners in solving various cases by connecting them to the initial judgments which were delivered on similar cases. US legal systems needs to further embrace the common laws in delivering their verdicts since they have been in existence from time immemorial and are there to protect individual’s freedoms and rights.

The United States written constitution has continuously given the judicial and legal systems direction to follow in delivering their judgment and shaping the entire judicial system. Constitution being the supreme body of law that must be adhered to, legal systems has continuously referred to it in delivering their verdicts in support of its supremacy. The separation of powers among the various branches of government by the constitution has given the legal system freedoms to exercise their powers without interference from any of the branches and this has given the legal system autonomy to exercise.

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Separation of powers between the state and federal government make it easy for the federal governments to deal with the emerging issues affecting their legal systems independently through deriving powers from the States Supreme Court. Although the constitution spells the separation of powers, members of the congress repeatedly interfere with the decisions made by the court which are not in their favor. For efficient justice to be administered by the legal system there should be no political interference in either of the branches of the government and each should function as a separate entity in delivering its service to the people.

Reference list

Burnham, W. 2006. Introduction to the Law and Legal System of the United States. New York: Thomson/West.

Chemerinsky, E & Sample, J. 2001. You get the Judges You pay For. Web.

Dickinson, J. 2003. Administrative Justice and Supremacy of law in the United States. New Jersey: Harvard university press.

Hall, K & McGuire, T.2005. The Judicial Branch. New York: Oxford University Press.

McAlinn, P.G, Rosen, D. & Stern, P.J. 2010. An Introduction to American Law (2nd ed.), Durham: Carolina Academic Press.

Segal, J, Spaeth, H & Benesh, S. 2005. The supreme court in the American Legal System. New York: Cambridge University Press.

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