We explain what public law is and the branches of study that make it up. In addition, its difference with private law and examples.
Public law, together with private law, makes up the branch of positive law.
What is public law?
A part of the legal systems whose rules concern public authority and its relations with individuals, organizations and itself is known as a public right, provided that it is exercised as a representation of the interests of the State.
In other words, it is the branch of positive law that orders the relations of subordination and superordination between the State (represented by the Public Administration) and individuals, as well as between the different organisms that compose the Public Power.
Along with private law, it makes up the branch of positive law, that is, that which is contained in written legislation (Constitution, Law, etc.) and agreed and accepted by the community in which it governs.
Therefore, public law is also part of the legal system built by societies to govern their own functioning, and to which all societies choose to submit.
Public law can vary greatly according to the nation that governs, but broadly speaking it is governed by two guiding principles:
- Principle of legality. It establishes that all actions of the public powers must be inscribed necessarily in the legal order in force, that is to say, it must have legal security, according to its jurisdiction and nature. In other words, the State cannot violate the laws.
- Principle of empire. It establishes that any relationship between the State and individuals is exercised from a situation of inequality in which the former has the dominion (imperium) and therefore will be exercising a public power. In other words, the State is the authority.
See also: Legal Person.
Branches of public law
Criminal law is responsible for punishing those who violate the law, among other things.
The branches of public law are usually the following:
Constitutional law. That branch that concerns the interpretation of the legal texts of the Constitution and other written systems that are fundamental in the construction of the State.
Administrative law. That which regulates public administration and modulates the functioning and relations between the various bodies that make up the State.
Public international law. It concerns relations between the various nation-states of the planet: their joint plans, their economic agreements and exchanges, their border disputes, etc.
Criminal law. It has to do with the punitive capacity of the State, that is, its capacity to punish those who violate the law and to coerce the citizens among whom it reigns.
Procedural law. It regulates the mechanisms and procedures of the State regarding the way in which it exercises its power, guaranteeing minimum rights and proportion at all times.
Labour law. That branch linked to the legal framework that regulates work in order to guarantee its dignity, legality and fair remuneration, as well as the rights and duties of workers, employers, trade unions, etc.
Financial law. It regulates the processes of public expenditure, to ensure transparency and good behaviour of the State in its use of public funds.
Tax law. That which has to do with taxes, tributes and other forms of tax collection, which the State uses to self-finance.
Electoral law. It is in charge of regulating the procedures of succession of power and replacement of governors at all levels, in any of the public powers.
Difference between public and private law
The difference between public and private law dates back to the ancient years of Roman law, when the need was imposed to discern between legal matters linked to individuals (Private Law) and those concerning the “Public Res”, i.e. the public “thing” of the State (Public Law).
Both branches are distinguished, therefore, in their scope of action: when dealing with matters involving individuals or even the State acting as one of them (commercial operations, successions, private property, etc.) we will speak of private law; when dealing with the State and the rules of coexistence and the social pact (public order, public funds, functioning of the State, etc.) we will speak of public law.
It can serve you: Private Law.
Examples of public law
Examples of public law are simple and abundant:
- The conviction of a criminal who was captured by the security organs (criminal law) and tried by an appropriate court (procedural law).
- The interpretation of the provisions of the National Constitution (constitutional law) in order to determine whether or not presidential elections were held correctly (electoral law).
- The revision of international treaties on sovereignty to mediate in a third country in conflict (public international law).
- Defend a worker whose rights have been violated (labor law).