Written Law

Written Law
Written Law
Quick Summary of Written Law

The term “Written Law” pertains to laws that are documented and formally sanctioned. It encompasses laws established by the government, such as those outlined in constitutions and treaties, as well as laws enacted by legislators. This contrasts with judge-made law, which is formulated by judges based on their rulings in legal proceedings.

What is the dictionary definition of Written Law?
Dictionary Definition of Written Law

Written law refers to laws that are officially enacted by a legislative body, such as a government or parliament, and are written down. This category includes statutory law, constitutions, and treaties. Examples of written law include the United States Constitution, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Geneva Conventions. These examples demonstrate the definition of written law, as they are all official documents that have been written down and enacted by a legislative body. For instance, the United States Constitution serves as the supreme law of the land and provides the framework for the federal government. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on various factors. The Geneva Conventions are a set of treaties that establish international standards for the humane treatment of individuals during times of war.

Full Definition Of Written Law

“Written law, also known as statutory law or legislation, is a fundamental component of legal systems worldwide. It consists of a formal body of laws enacted by a legislature or other governing body. These laws are codified and documented, providing a clear and accessible framework for regulating human conduct within a society. This overview will cover the origins, characteristics, importance, and challenges associated with written law.”

Origins of Written Law

The concept of written law has ancient roots, dating back to early civilisations such as Mesopotamian, Egyptian, and Babylonian societies. These ancient legal codes, such as the Code of Hammurabi, were inscribed onto stone tablets or clay cylinders and served as authoritative guides for governing society.

In ancient Greece, the concept of written law gained prominence with the codification of laws by legislators like Draco and Solon. These written laws provided a degree of certainty and consistency in legal matters, fostering stability and order within the Greek city-states.

The Roman Empire further refined the concept of written law with the development of the Twelve Tables, a foundational legal document that influenced legal systems across Europe for centuries to come. The codification of Roman law by Emperor Justinian in the sixth century AD, known as the Corpus Juris Civilis, solidified the importance of written law in legal systems.

Characteristics of Written Law

Written law possesses several key characteristics that distinguish it from other forms of law:

  • Formal Codification: Written law is formally codified and documented in statutes, codes, regulations, and ordinances. These codified laws are typically enacted by a legislative body, such as a parliament or congress, through a defined legislative process.
  • Clarity and Certainty: One of the primary advantages of written law is its clarity and certainty. By clearly articulating legal principles and rules, written law reduces ambiguity and provides individuals with a clear understanding of their rights and obligations.
  • Accessibility: Written law is accessible to the public, allowing individuals to familiarise themselves with the laws that govern their conduct. Legal codes and statutes are often published and made available in libraries, online databases, and government websites, facilitating widespread access.
  • Enforceability: Written laws are enforceable by the state or other governing authorities. Violations of written laws may result in legal consequences, such as fines, imprisonment, or other sanctions, depending on the severity of the offence.
  • Flexibility and Adaptability: Despite its formal nature, written law possesses a degree of flexibility and adaptability. Legislative bodies have the authority to amend or repeal existing laws to reflect changing societal values, norms, and circumstances.

Importance of Written Law

Written law plays a crucial role in modern legal systems for several reasons:

  • Legal Certainty: Written law provides legal certainty by clearly defining rights, duties, and obligations. This certainty promotes confidence in the legal system and facilitates the resolution of disputes.
  • Protection of Rights: Written law safeguards individual rights and liberties by establishing legal frameworks that protect against arbitrary government actions or infringements on fundamental freedoms.
  • Social Order and Stability: By establishing clear rules and standards of conduct, written law promotes social order and stability within society. It helps prevent conflicts and disputes by providing a framework for resolving disputes peacefully.
  • Promotion of Justice: Written law serves as a tool for promoting justice and fairness by ensuring equal treatment under the law. It provides mechanisms for addressing grievances and seeking redress for injustices.
  • Economic Development: A robust legal framework, underpinned by written law, is essential for fostering economic development and investment. Investors and businesses rely on the rule of law to protect property rights, enforce contracts, and ensure a level playing field in the marketplace.
  • Democratic Governance: In democratic societies, written law reflects the will of the people as expressed through their elected representatives. Legislative bodies enact laws that reflect societal values, priorities, and aspirations, thereby promoting democratic governance.

Challenges of Written Law

While written law offers numerous benefits, it also presents certain challenges:

  • Complexity and Volume: Modern legal systems produce vast amounts of legislation, leading to complexity and volume. Navigating intricate legal codes and statutes can be daunting for individuals without legal training, hindering access to justice.
  • Rigidity: Written law can be perceived as rigid and inflexible, particularly in systems where amendments require lengthy legislative processes. This rigidity may impede the timely response to emerging issues or changing societal needs.
  • Interpretation and Application: The interpretation and application of written law can be subjective and contentious. Courts and legal authorities may interpret statutes differently, leading to inconsistencies and uncertainty in the law.
  • Legislative Capture: Powerful interests, such as corporate lobbyists or special interest groups, may influence the legislative process to serve their agendas. This phenomenon, known as legislative capture, can undermine the integrity and effectiveness of written law.
  • Compliance Costs: Compliance with complex regulatory requirements imposed by written law can impose significant costs on individuals, businesses, and government agencies. These compliance costs may act as barriers to entry for small businesses and entrepreneurs.


Written law forms the cornerstone of modern legal systems, providing a codified framework for regulating human conduct, protecting individual rights, and promoting social order and justice. Despite its challenges, written law remains essential for fostering legal certainty, democratic governance, and economic development. As societies continue to evolve, the role of written law in shaping the fabric of society will remain indispensable, ensuring that the rule of law prevails and justice is served for all.

Written Law FAQ'S

Written law refers to laws that are codified and recorded in written form, such as statutes, regulations, and ordinances.

The purpose of written law is to provide a clear and consistent set of rules and regulations that govern society and protect individual rights.

Written law is created by legislative bodies, such as Congress or state legislatures, or by administrative agencies with delegated authority.

Written law is codified and recorded in written form, while common law is based on judicial decisions and legal precedents.

Written law is enforced by law enforcement agencies, such as police departments, and by the courts through the legal system.

Yes, written law can be changed through the legislative process, which involves introducing, debating, and passing new laws or amending existing ones.

If someone violates a written law, they may be subject to criminal or civil penalties, such as fines, imprisonment, or damages.

Judges play a critical role in interpreting written law and applying it to specific cases, which helps to ensure that the law is applied fairly and consistently.

Written law must be consistent with the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land and sets forth the basic principles and framework of the legal system.

Written law is essential to a democratic society because it provides a clear and consistent set of rules and regulations that govern society and protect individual rights, while also ensuring that the law is applied fairly and consistently.

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This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 8th June 2024.

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