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First-Year Student Research & Study Guide: Sources of Law

A guide to help UC Hastings law students successfully manage their first year courses and legal research assignments.

The Sources of Law

Both federal and state governments have lawmaking powers which is divided up among the three branches - executive, legislative, and judicial.
  • The Executive Branch creates administrative law, which is published as regulations.  
  • The Legislative Branch creates laws that are passed and published as statutes. 
  • The Judicial Branch creates law in the form of decisions that are published in case reporters. Judges create and shape the common law. In a common law system, the law is expressed in an evolving body of doctrine determined by judges in specific cases, rather than in a group of prescribed abstract principles. The common law grows and changes over time. An important element of common law is stare decisis which courts are bound to follow earlier decisions. 
Sources of Law: Cases, Statutes, and Regulations (iTunes podcast)
Jurisdiction & Controlling vs. Persuasive Authority (iTunes podcast)