Statutory law

Statutory law is written law (as oppposed to oral or customary law) set down by a legislature or other governing authority such as the executive branch of government in response to a perceived need to clarify the functioning of government, improve civil order, answer a public need, to codify existing law, or for an individual or company to obtain special treatment. (Contrast common law.) In addition to the statutes passed by the national or state legislature, lower authorities or municipalities may also promulgate administrative regulations or municipal ordinances that have the force of law — the process of creating these administrative decrees are generally clasified as rulemaking. While these enactments are subordinate to the law of the whole state or nation, they are nonetheless a part of the body of a jurisdiction's statutory law.

Private legislation that may originate as a private bill is a lesser known aspect of statutory law. An example was divorce in Canada prior to the passage of the Divorce Act of 1968. It was possible to obtain a legislative divorce in Canada by application to the Canadian Senate, which reviewed and investigated petitions for divorce, which would then be voted upon by the Senate and subsequently made into law. In the United Kingdom Parliament, private bills were used in the nineteenth century to create corporations, grant monopolies and give individuals rights in excess of the public and common law. Their use has become more limited in the twentieth century. In the United States private bills include grants of citizenship to individuals who are otherwise ineligible for normal immigration or visa processing; alleviation of tax liability; military decorations; and for special veterans benefits. In the United Kingdom, individuals may present private bills through the assistance of a parliamentary agent. These are firms knowledgeable about the process of drafting and presenting a private bill to the clerks and committees of the United Kingdom Parliament. In Canada and the United States law firms and lobbyists generally act as intermediaries in the drafting of private bills with members of Parliament and Congress, resepectively.

Private bills should also not be confused with the Private member's bill in the Westminster system of government. Private member's bills are usually proposed by a member of the governing party for a public purpose such as the amendment of existing legislation or the proposal of entirely new legislation; however, such bills are not presented by the prime minister or other senior members of the government but by backbenchers who present such legislation in the hope that popular support will cause their particular cause to gain sufficient attention to be more fully considered by the parliament. The government may also seek to have a bill introduced unofficially by a backbencher so as not to create a public scandal; such bills may also be introduced by the loyal opposition — members of the opposition party or parties. Sometimes a private member's bill may also have private bill aspects, in such case the proposed legislation is called a hybrid bill.

See also: Statute, Case law, Precedent, Codification, Statutory Instrument, United Kingdom Legislation, List of United States Federal Legislation, Honorary Citizen of the United States.

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