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LEGAL RESEARCH

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Definition of the Law

Both the national and state governments are divided into executive, legislative, and judicial branches.

Hierarchy: Any powers not delegated to the federal government in the Constitution, not prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states.

The federal Constitution, federal laws, and international treaties are supreme to state or local law, state and local laws that contradict federal laws or treaties are thus preempted and can be declared unconstitutional by federal court.

The body of law consists of four parts.

  1. The Federal Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land.
  2. Legislation is the law passed by Congress.
  3. Regulations, derived from government agencies, administer the legislation by spelling out procedures and specifications. For example, the law says food packages must list ingredients. Regulations would specify that ingredients must be in English and in legible print.
  4. Court cases force the courts to interpret the meaning of laws and regulations.

The basic pattern is the same on the state level. For Wisconsin Legal Resources consult the Legal Research - Wisconsin University Library Subject Guide.

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