NC and U.S. Legal Resources Guide
A constitution describes the standards of conduct for a government and its citizens. It defines the basic rights of individuals and sets out the activities and general powers of government. The power to pass laws is exercised by legislature in the form of statutes.
Statutes are created through the legislative process.
1. An Idea: A citizen or lobbyist presents an idea for a new law or amendment to a member of the North Carolina General Assembly or the United States Congress. If that legislator approves, he or she drafts a bill.
2. A Bill: The legislator introduces the bill into the House of Representatives or the Sentate and it is voted upon.
3. An Act: If the bill passes in both the House and the Senate and is not vetoed, it becomes law and is called an Act.
4. Session Laws: At the close of a given session of a legislature, which is two years for both the North Carolina and Federal governments, all adopted Acts are collectively published as "session laws".
5. Codes: State and Federal governments compile all statutes currently in effect within their jurisdictions into codes. Since they are organized by subject in a master index, codes are easier to search than session laws, which require the researcher to know the year that a bill passed into law.
Administrative Rules and Regulations
The North Carolina General Assembly and United States Congress often pass laws which require
an administrative entity to oversee programs and create guidelines for compliance with the laws enacted.
The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and the Federal Communications Commission are examples of theses entities.
Court reports include the published decisions of courts on specific issues raised in disputes (i.e. cases).
The first level of the court system is the trial court, which are the district and superior courts in North Carolina and the district courts in the federal court system.
Unlike decisions in U.S. District Courts, a North Carolina trial court decision is not published unless an apeal is filed with a higher court.
In both North Carolina and federal court systems, the higher courts are comprised of a court of appeals and a supreme court. In both cases, the decisions of these higher courts are published.
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