Who Makes the Law?

Individuals involved in the legal process frequently ask where the law comes from. This question is often posed by those who complain about the ever-increasing number of laws governing everyday life.

The law has numerous sources. They range from our Declaration of Independence, federal and state constitutions, government legislative bodies to governing bodies of voluntary associations, contracts between parties and even the laws of England.

Under the Declaration of Independence the United States established itself as an independent sovereign. Thereafter the United States Constitution was adopted, creating both federal government and the several states to whom certain powers were reserved. By amendments, the federal constitution also recognized or established laws guaranteeing a variety of civil rights.

The United States Constitution also created the law-making body, the United States Congress, consisting of two legislative branches, the Senate and the House of Representatives. Those bodies make federal law through the enactment of statutes.

Similarly, the 50 states have constitutions establishing basic laws, civil rights and establishing legislative (law-making) bodies.

For example, Colorado has a constitution which, among other things, creates her legislative body, the Colorado general Assembly, likewise consisting of both a Senate and House of Representatives. Basically, they make the state laws. In one fell swoop, a Colorado statute adopts all of the laws of England as they existed in the year 1607 to the extent that they were general and not "local to that kingdom." Those laws form the basis of the common law.

In addition, governmental bodies within the state, such as towns, cities, counties, special districts (recreational, transportation, water and sanitation and the like) have law or rulemaking powers which they exercise in making still more laws.

That is not all. Courts make laws through the process of interpreting statutes, ordinances and other laws adopted by legislative bodies. The courts also refine the common law to meet contemporary circumstances. Additionally, administrative agencies created by various statutes and ordinances similarly make laws by adopting rules and regulations pursuant to powers granted to them.

The law-making powers discussed above may be classified as governmental. Almost everyone is additionally governed by some type of "voluntary" laws which we impose upon ourselves. These include laws created by contracts to which parties bind themselves along with laws, rules and regulations adopted by voluntary associations which people join. Contracts actually make laws to govern the relationships, rights and obligations between the contracting parties.

A classic example of a voluntary association whose laws govern certain activities is the membership in a condominium homeowners' association which makes laws governing its members as related to their condominium ownership and certain related activities.

With all of these law-making bodies it is obvious why we now are governed by such a huge mass of laws.