Why is statute law important?

Statutory law or statute law is written law (as opposed 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, to codify existing law, or for an individual or company to obtain special treatment. 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 classified 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 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.

The term codified law is sometimes used as a synonym for statutory law in general. In some U.S. states, the entire body of statutory law is referred to as a “code,” such as the Ohio Revised Code or the New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated. At the federal and state level in the United States, portions of the statutory law are also referred to as “code,” such as the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

In a more narrow technical sense, however, the term codified law refers to statutes that have been organized (“codified”) by subject matter; in this narrower sense, some but not all statutes are considered “codified.” In the United States, a common example of an uncodified statute (in this narrow sense) would be the section or sections of an Act of Congress that provides for the effective date of the Act. The substantive provisions of the Act could be codified (arranged by subject matter) in one or more titles of the United States Code while the “effective date” provisions — remaining uncodified — would be available by reference to the United States Statutes at Large. Another example of an “uncodified” statute is a “private law” passed by the U.S. Congress — a law affecting only one person or a small group of persons. Another meaning of “codified law” is a statute that takes the common law in a certain area of the law and puts it in statute or code form.

Links to statute:

Full text of US Federal Legislation

Key Words:

Statue Law
Common Law


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