What is Statutory Law?

In the United States, the most significant body of laws is known as statutory law. That’s because this type of law is passed specifically by government agencies and legislative bodies, ranging from town councils to state legislatures and the federal Senate and House of Representatives. These laws are typically passed by either a majority or super-majority vote, consented to by the executive branch, and signed into law by a mayor, governor, or president. Because this type of law is passed largely by elected representatives, it’s considered to be the type of law most in line with the public’s political views, best interests, and long-term objectives. Even so, statutory laws are not immune from revision, repeal, and legal challenges.

Laws Written By Elected Representatives in the Legislative Branch

There are many different types of laws and numerous bodies that can draft or enforce them. The legislature, however, is the primary venue for drafting legislation that affects business, treaties, labor laws, budgets, and much more. New statutory laws can be passed at virtually any level, ranging from local legislative bodies to those operated at the state and federal level. Unlike regulatory law, however, which requires no majority vote and is inherently enforced by the head of a federal agency, these laws must earn the consent, approval and signature of an executive. Executive leadership, typically a mayor, governor or president, can veto a law if they don’t believe it’s in their political interests or in the interest of a majority of their constituents.

The legislative body is responsible, in that case, for negotiating changes to the law that might make it more palatable to the executive branch of government. In some cases, they can also vote to override a veto if they possess a super-majority of votes. In most legislatures, this is defined as between 60 and 66 percent of all members of the body. In either instance, the bill could still become a legal statute and impact the lives of many.

A Reminder About Revision, Renewal, and Repeal

Legal statutes aren’t written in stone. In fact, some of them are changed and repealed in virtually every legislative session. This is actually a good thing, and it helps the legislature to make ongoing changes to a law as needed. Technological developments, changes to business and industry, and changes in popular political perception, may necessitate changes so that the law remains relevant and reasonable to the people it was designed to protect or regulate.

In other cases, statutes are designed to expire every few years. It’s up to the legislative body to renew the statute when this happens, but only if they believe the law is still needed. If the law no longer is needed to protect, defend, or better serve constituents, it may simply be allowed to expire. The law could then no longer be enforced.

Legal Challenges: Another Way to Handle Statutory Code

In addition to repealing and renewing laws, there is one significant way that many laws are changed or eliminated altogether. Legal challenges through the court system can be used to challenge specific and controversial sections of a law passed by the legislature, or the entire statute can be struck down at one time if it doesn’t pass a constitutional test. This process has been used exceedingly often throughout history, challenging everything from marriage laws to campaign finance regulations and school board policies.

An Important Part of the Modern Legal System

This type of law is perhaps the largest body of laws in a system designed like the one in the United States. It’s also representative of the public’s will and designed to serve their best interests over time. If it doesn’t meet those goals, it’s likely that any statutory law will eventually expire, be repealed, or find its way to appellate courts in short order.