Public Law vs Private Law - Explained
Laws enforced by the government and by individuals
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What is the difference between public law and private law?
The distinction between public law and private law concerns who the law directly governs or affects.
It also concerns who is primarily charged with enforcing the law.
Next Article: Civil Law vs Criminal Law Back to: INTRODUCTION TO LAW
What is Public Law?
Public law consists of laws aimed at regulating the function of society. The main areas of public law are constitutional law, administrative law, and criminal law.
- Constitutional law - Centers on the determination of whether government action (either federal or state) somehow interferes with the rights granted to individuals under the Constitution.
- Administrative law - Concerns the laws and procedures developed by administrative agencies to regulate a particular subject matter.
- Criminal law - Concerns the rules prohibiting bad acts that the state directly enforces against individuals.
How does an appellate court protect the constitutionally granted rights of individuals against infringement? Try to think of examples of how federal and state administrative agencies enforce laws? Who brings charges against an individual who violates a criminal statute?
- The judicial system has established different laws that look to protect against the infringement of an individual's rights. Laws such as civil and criminal laws are put in place to prohibit individuals from infringing other people's rights as well as protect their property. These laws provide the remedies available to complainants who have had their rights infringed. These laws protect against, but not limited to trespass, defamation, theft, conversion of property, and many other infringements.
- Federal and state administrative agencies are given the mandate to enforce these laws by ensuring that they take action against individuals who undermine the rights of fellow citizens. State agencies such as the police enforce the law by arresting wrong-doers or using their instruments to track down criminals or those accused of going against the rights of other individuals. In a criminal case, the state is the one that brings charges against an individual deemed to have violated a criminal statute.
What is Private Law?
Private law concerns the legal relationships between individuals. The main areas of private law are property law, contract law, and tort law.
- Property law - Centers on the ownership rights of individuals with regard to tangible or intangible assets.
- Contract law - Regards the ability of individuals to form and enforce agreements.
- Tort law - Tort law protects the rights of individuals against infringement by other individuals.
How is it possible that individuals can have rights in things to the exclusion of others? What are some examples of property rights? What allows individuals to enter into business transactions with others? What is the effect if the parties have no confidence in the other party complying with their obligations under an agreement? What is the effect of being able to enjoy one's right with or without fear of infringement by others?
- Certain groups of people enjoy rights or are governed by laws that don't apply to others in society. A good example would be property rights and business laws. The owners of certain property are governed by certain laws and regulations concerning their property or possessions. For instance, with a landowner, certain laws will apply to him but will not apply to a person who doesn't own a piece of land. The same goes for businesses.
- Certain laws will govern business owners only, and their interactions with the public. Since business entities are deemed to be persons, they are able to enter into contracts and agreements with others. When such parties get into an agreement, there should be proper drafting of the terms of the agreement and the damages that can result in one failing to honor the agreement. This means that both parties enjoy their rights in that agreement. This way, they don't have to fear since the agreement terms offer the necessary remedies should one party fail to honor their part of the agreement.
Richard has a business and needs capital for expansion. He decides to sell an interest in his business to public investors to raise capital. He realizes that his company's performance may not be attractive to most investors, so he alters his financial statements to drastically inflate its apparent profits. Richard sells shares of his business to investors for a total of $100,000. In doing so, he fails to follow federal and state securities filing and disclosure laws. If the Securities and Exchange Commission brings a civil action against Richard, is this an example of public or private law? Is it a public or private action if the investors bring a legal action against Richard to recover their invested funds?
- In this example, Richard is subject to civil litigation brought by the Government (the SEC). As such, it is a matter of public law. If the shareholders bring an action, this would be a private action and thus private law between individuals.
- Understanding Law
- What is "Law"?
- Economic Strength of a Nation?
- Capitalism vs Communism
- What is the "Rule of Law"?
- What is "property law" or "property rights?
- What is "ownership"?
- Why recognize property rights?
- How the law protects property rights?
- What are the "common law" and "civil law" systems?
- What is "public law" and "private law"?
- What is "civil law" and "criminal law"?
- What is "substantive law" and "procedural law"?
- Sources of state and federal law?
- United States Code of Laws
- Role of Judiciary in the legal system?
- Business activity and legal entities?