Public Law

The U.S. Supreme Court and the US President

Public law is conventionally split into administrative and constitutional law. Administrative law covers the law relating to the administrative activities of government such as the making, adjudication, and enforcement of regulations. Judicial review of state apparatus, from local councils to Government Ministries is the chief method for the judiciary to hold the executive to account.

Constitutional law governs the relationships between the executive, legislature and judiciary. Human rights or civil liberties also form part of a country’s constitution and govern the rights of the individual against the state. Most jurisdictions, like the United States and France) have a single codified constitution, with a Bill of Rights. A few, like the United Kingdom, have no such document; in those jurisdictions the constitution is composed of statute, case law and convention. A case named Entick v. Carrington[15] illustrates a constitutional principle deriving from the common law. Mr Entick’s house was searched and ransacked by Sherrif Carrington. Carrington argued that a warrant from a Government minister, the Earl of Halifax was valid authority, even though there was no statutory provision or court order for it. The court, led by Lord Camden stated that,

“The great end, for which men entered into society, was to secure their property. That right is preserved sacred and incommunicable in all instances, where it has not been taken away or abridged by some public law for the good of the whole. By the laws of England, every invasion of private property, be it ever so minute, is a trespass… If no excuse can be found or produced, the silence of the books is an authority against the defendant, and the plaintiff must have judgment.” Inspired by John Locke[16], the fundamental constitutional principle is that the individual can do anything but that which is forbidden by law, while the state may do nothing but that which is authorised by law.

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