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What is an Organic Law?

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  • Written By: Kathy Heydasch
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 01 December 2016
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Organic law, also known as fundamental law, is a group of mandates or documents that form the foundation of law in a society. Although it typically refers to a sovereign state, it might refer to a business or other type of organization. Organic law may be formally written, such as with the Constitutions of the US, Spain or France. It also can be an informal or unwritten code of law.

In most cases, organic law refers to foundational documents upon which the rule of a society is governed. In the US, these are the US Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. Many countries have constitutions that comprise its set of organic law, with some measure of flexibility built into it, such as the addition of amendments.

The balancing act between maintaining social order and allowing personal freedom is a difficult one. Organic law attempts to establish a foundation upon which legal statutes that govern are created. In the US, organic law has built into it the ability of higher courts to overturn decisions. In this way, laws and their interpretation can be ever-changing, although its foundational organic law does not.

Organic law may refer not only to a set of governing ordinances. It may refer to the structure of a government itself. For example, the US Constitution establishes the three major branches of government — executive, legislative and judicial — as well as the rules of election or appointment to each.

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In a business, organic law may refer to a set of principles lined out within corporate documents. A corporate charter establishes governing rules of a corporation, such as the type of industry, the composition of governing boards within the corporation, whether or not stock will be issued and how, and many other details. Corporate charters may take many forms, depending on the country and the area of jurisdiction. A corporate charter is just one of many types of business documents that set precedent for how a corporation will be run.

Jurisprudence is the philosophy of law, and it studies many forms of legal rights and restrictions, among them organic law, natural law, positive law and common law. Natural law uses rules of nature to determine reasonable restrictions to moral behavior. Positive law is a set of man-made laws that do not necessarily use laws of nature to determine their existence. Common law is also known as case law, whereby certain rights and privileges are granted or taken away by a series of legal precedents.

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