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Four Types of Law

The four primary sources of law in the United States are the Constitution, statutes, common law, and international treaties. 

The United States Constitution is the supreme law of the land. If a state or federal law conflicts with the Constitution, the law is invalid. The courts, and ultimately the Supreme Court, make the final decision regarding the constitutionality of a statute. The U.S. Constitution can only be amended with the consent of 2/3 of both the Senate and the House of Representatives and 3/4 of the states. The U.S. Constitution has been amended 17 times in its history. The most recent amendment was the 26th, giving 18 year olds the right to vote.

Statutes are enacted by the legislative branch of the federal or state government. They become law once ratified by the president or governor. If the president vetos a proposed law, the veto can be overridden by a 2/3 majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Similarly, in Minnesota a veto can be overridden by a 2/3 vote of both houses. The courts are responsible for interpreting statutes to the extent they are vague or ambiguous, as is often the case.

Common Law is "judge made" law, also referred to as case law or precedent. Much of the law of contracts and torts originally was developed by the courts, one case at a time. To some extent common law has been supplanted by statute.

Treaties are agreements between the United States and foreign nations. They are interpreted in accordance with principles of international law, but they must also be consistent with the Constitution, The Constitution provides that the President has the power to propose and negotiate treaties, but they become law only if a 2/3 majority of the Senate concurs.

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