British and American Legal System

Subject: Law
Pages: 7
Words: 1675
Reading time:
6 min
Study level: College


Legal systems ae usually characterized by numerous differences in constitution principles, judicial peculiarities, and state institutions. The paper is focused on the detailed analysis of American and English legal systems; differences and similarities in England and Wales’ law and USA law are based on Parliamentary Sovereignty and Judicial Precedent, as well as introduced reforms aimed at supporting harmony between the country and its people.

British legal system, which is characterized by parliamentary supremacy dominating over EU adopted laws, provides more support to the population in the form of perfect political organization and effective reforms in contrast to other democratic countries with written constitution. Though the US legal system protects the population from political interference by the Bill of Rights, the English Parliamentary domination has a right to direct the whole nation to the right political course.

The the analysis of legal system in Wales and England will be based on constitution examination, which is referred to the law operating context of the state. It should be noted that the set of rules, forming a constitution, is formed as a written document in most countries, though English constitution is known to be unwritten. Nevertheless, the unwritten form of British constitution cannot mean that the country has no legal constitutional rules, since every state with the rules about the head of the country and basic legal system rights and regulations is considered to have a constitution. It is necessary to focus on three main principles characterizing British constitution, which are the following: the rule of law, powers separation and Parliament supremacy.

The first aspect to analyze is considered to be a valuable and fundamental constitutional principle, the separation of powers. Taking into account this principle the state power of England and Wales is divided into the following types: legislative, executive and judicial, which cannot be governed by one person and require separation of control exercised by different bodies. The executive power consists of the Government and governmental service, presented in the form of civil servants and police. The judicial authority is concentrated in hands of judges; and the legislative is presented by Parliament.

Secondly, it should be stressed that one more important constitutional principle is parliamentary sovereignty, or as it is called, supremacy of Parliament. The highest and the most important body of England and Wales legal system is considered to be Parliament, impacting the formation of state laws through parliamentary procedures and their appliance in the court. According to the principle of parliamentary sovereignty, the highest source has ‘the right to make or unmake any law whatever; and, further, that no person or body is recognized by the law of England as having a right to override or set aside the legislation of Parliament under the English Constitution’. (Elliott and Quinn, 2007, p. 2) Parliament is considered to be democratically elected, and this is the main reason for strict upholding of all the laws formed by this body. In 1998 British Parliament passed the Act on Human Rights, which is a part of domestic law, though provides no supremacy over the law passed by Parliament. It is necessary to underline the fact that the membership of Britain in European Union resulted in certain erosion of Parliamentary sovereignty; this problem is connected with the fact that EU, making laws in certain areas, should have domination over Parliamentary supremacy, which impacts the highest British body losing its leading position. It is necessary to underline the fact that Wales’ government developed a new body, which is the Welsh Assembly; nevertheless, it has no power to form primary legislation, but only delegated legislation. (Slapper, and Kelly, 2009)

And finally, it is necessary to analyze the third important principle of constitution in Wales and England, which is the rule of law. According to English rule of law, there are three basic elements forming this constitutional principle: 1) the law should perform the role of the governor covering state officials and citizens; 2) only the breakage of state law can impact the punishment of people, meaning that only breach leads to sanction; and 3) the judges’ decisions are secured by law, though the individual rights are not protected by written constitution. The rules of law are an integral part of state legal system, stressing that the power of the country should be used in accordance with agreed laws. ‘Extraordinary rendition’ is the most recent practice becoming a part of rules of law, protecting people from kidnapping by the representatives of the states without a legal and formal response to the law.

It is necessary to underline the fact that in 2005 England and Wales government introduced a Constitutional Reform developing a number of important reforms within British Constitution. (Slapper, and Kelly, 2009)

The legal system of the USA is characterized by multilevel nature, having state and federal levels of law; the most important place is taken by American Constitution. Characterizing the US constitution, it is necessary to stress that it consists of federal law boundaries having such elements as constitutional treaties, acts of Congress and federal judiciary. The constitution of the USA is applied to everyone in the country regardless of the immigration status or citizenship. It should be noted that every state of the country has its won developed power with system of justice and civil laws under American constitution. (Sullivan and Frase, 2008)

According to the American constitution, there are three main governmental branches, such as executive, judicial and legislative. The head of the executive branch is the president of the USA, which is usually assisted by a Cabinet, a vice president and state officials. Every law passes within the state should be approved and signed by the president; in case the bill is rejected, veto can be overridden by a majority of Congress votes. Treaties can be negotiated only by the executive branch. The judicial branch of the USA, which consists of federal courts, national court and courts of appeal, is headed by the Chief Justice. One of the main tasks of this branch is concentrated on laws interpretation in accordance with constitutional regulations; besides, judicial review may restrict executive and legislative power in case of passing a law violating the state constitution. And finally, the third branch, legislative, is presented in the form of a Congress, sharing responsibilities between the Congress and the House of Representatives. (Vandervort, 1999)

The adoption of American constitution in 1787 resulted in the introduction of 27 amendments, ten of which are presented in the form of Bill of Rights. It should be stressed that according to American Bill of Rights, Congress has no right to introduce the law respecting this of that religion; besides, the government cannot interfere with people’s personal life depriving them of property, liberty or life. To understand the importance of American Bill of Rights, it is necessary to analyze the basic aspects it covers: forbiddance of unreasonable seizure; guarantee social freedom for the population; the prohibition of soldiers’ billeting into private property; the rights to have a defense in the court trial, to bear arms and trial by jury; and safeguarding of people and states rights delegated to government of the country. There is a need to stress that American legal system is based on democratic position, providing its population with rights and freedoms, protecting them from governmental interference.

It should be stressed that according to American constitution, all the people, living in the country, should strictly obey the law, which in its turn protect them from external interference. The USA written constitution takes an important place in the life of the state, controlling stable and rational functioning of principle USA branches of the government. (Sullivan and Frase, 2008)


The analysis of two legal systems of Britain and the USA demonstrated considerable differences of governmental forms. Two contrastive states, the USA and England and Wales, with written and unwritten constitution demonstrated various political and social aspects centralized in state structures. I can firmly state that English legal system is closer to my understanding and vision of an ideal law governing state social order.

It is important to stress that the approach of Parliamentary supremacy supported in England and Wales legal system is considered to be unusual for most countries with democracy domination. The state interference in the USA, for example, is protected by the Bill of Rights, which is recognized to be inseparable part of written constitution. Contrary to the American system, all the laws developed by Parliament should be reasonably passed. For example, parliamentary interference in the form of the law, stressing that every person having a dog should have a cat as well, must be valid and followed by the natives. It is necessary to highlight the idea that such a firm and fixed position of legal structural regulation is the basis of English political order and status on the international level. (Bernstein, 2006)

Unwritten constitution cannot be perceived as a weakness of the state, since there is a list of laws forming organized functioning of British system. British membership in EU is the identification of state power of the country due to total political interference with social life of its nation. There is a tendency to believe, that if the law governs the people, it serves as the central protector to its possible external interference. Thus, one can hardly find a country with such limitations on immigration process, speaking of state total control over nation’s protection from any outer interference with every aspect of social, economical, religious, business and political life. (Elliott and Quinn, 2007)


The analysis of two legal systems highlighted the examination of basic governmental branches in Britain and the USA; the paper raised the problems of law supremacy and domination and analyzed the consequences of such regulations in the form of reforms. Considering the fact that the US legal system protects population from political interference by Bill of Rights, the analysis of the English Parliamentary domination underlined its right in directing the whole nation to the right political course. (Mackay, 2003)


Bernstein, R. 2006. Ratification of the Constitution. The Reader’s Companion to American History.

Elliott, C. and Quinn, F. 2007. English Legal System. 8th Edition. Pearson Education.

Mackay, A. 2003. Human rights, constitutional law and the development of the English legal system. Hart Publishing.

Slapper, G. and Kelly, D. The English Legal System: 2009-2010. 10th Edition. Taylor & Francis.

Sullivan, Th. and Frase, R. 2008. Proportionality principles in American law: controlling excessive government actions. Oxford University Press US.

Vandervort, Th. 1999. American law and the legal system: equal justice under the law. 2nd Edition. Cengage Learning.