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What is a Law Commission?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2016
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A law commission is an advisory body that assists nations with legal reform by reviewing topics of legislative interest and making recommendations about legislation and related matters. Law commissions can have broader or narrower scopes; the United Nations maintains a law commission, as do individual states, territories, and provinces with concerns about the state of their legislation. Attorneys, judges, and other legal professionals may work on a law commission and they can call upon experts for testimony, research, and support.

Law commissions often break their work up into annual sessions, with specific topics for review brought up at the beginning of each session. This allows them to organize their work and delegate appropriate amounts of time to particular legal topics of concern. Law commissions can review existing legislation to recommend revisions, as well as other activities, like striking laws or sections of laws and consolidating redundant laws.

These recommendations can streamline the body of law in a nation, making it easier to understand and enforce. When redundant laws are present, they can confuse people, including judges and members of law enforcement. A law commission may also identify outdated laws and target them for removal from the books; people do not enforce or refer to these laws anymore and while they may be a matter of historic interest, the commission will recommend removing them from the body of active law to prevent confusion and misunderstanding.

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Members of a law commission may also review proposed legislation and make suggestions for new legislation to address changes in the legal and cultural climate. This can include looking over draft legislation to make recommendations, working with legislators to draft appropriate new laws, and cooperating with government agencies concerned about how to implement legislation concerning their activities. The work can include extensive research and such commissions are usually supported by a staff of researchers, paralegals, and secretaries to assist members.

Openings on a law commission may occur periodically, allowing new people to join. People may join by appointment, vote, recommendation, or through a regular interview process. Generally, people need extensive experience to serve on the commission and must usually bring an area of new expertise to the table to balance the skills and experiences of other members of the commission. A commission filled with people who are well versed in just one area of the law will not be as effective as a mixed body featuring people with different areas of civil and criminal expertise.

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