The United States Constitution states in Article VI that the Constitution, and all laws made under it, “shall be the supreme Law of the Land”. These laws affect all persons and entities on a daily basis. In business law is often used in larger businesses to make sure the company stays in compliance with all the states laws. Large companies often keep what is called “in-house” counsel on the payroll in a position such as vice president or general counsel because of “extraordinary regulatory burdens such as complying with the securities or patent laws” (melvin, 2011, p. 7).
Depending on the size of the company the general counsel may also have additional attorneys that he or she supervises. Other companies may just have a lawyer on retainer to advise them in business ventures or legal paperwork such as an acquisition. “These attorneys devote a significant amount of their professional time to advising businesses on issues such as formation, governance, labor and employment laws, regulatory agency compliance, legal transactions, intellectual property, and other legal issues important to business operations”.
These lawyers focus on business and rarely perform other task. “Law firms vary greatly in size from one or just a few lawyers in a local or regional practice, to those firms that have hundreds of lawyers spread throughout the globe” (melvin, 2011, p. 7). In the case of Cipollone vs. Liggett, the plaintiff, Cipollone, filed a lawsuit against tobacco manufacturer Liggett for violating New Jersey State statutes dealing with consumer protections (Melvin, 2011).
The case was heard by the United States Supreme Court because of the contention that the New Jersey statutes were in conflict with United States federal law. The authority of the Court to hear a case of conflict between federal and state laws was spelled out in the case titled Marbury vs. Madison(1803) which gave the Court the power of judicial review of any laws thought to be in conflict with the US Constitution. The court ultimately ruled against the plaintiff finding that the New Jersey statutes did conflict with Federal law and were preempted because of this conflict.
The Commerce Clause of the US Constitution is found in Article 1, section 8 which states that the US Congress will have the power to regulate commerce between the States. As the Constitution also states that laws made under the authority of the Constitution are the “supreme law of the land”, any laws passed by the individual States are subject to scrutiny if they are in conflict with Federal law. Melvin (2011) tells us that this is what is known as the supremacy clause and State laws found to be in conflict are preempted, or superseded, by the Federal law.
In Cipollone, the Court found that the US Congress had already addressed the issues of advertising and marketing in the tobacco industry through the passage of the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act of 1965 and the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act of 1969. For this reason, the statutes passed by the New Jersey legislature were found to be preempted by Federal law and Liggett was not subject to those statutes. The Cipollone case illustrates the importance of the Commerce Clause and the way the Courts interpret the authority given to the Congress by the Constitution.
Without a central body of law, fifty States passing different regulations of business would become an unmanageable burden on commerce. Without the supremacy of Federal law, States might be prone to pass laws that discriminate against companies from other states. In an economy and market as large as that of the United States, the confusion that would come with fifty different bodies of regulation would effect any sort of efficiency and the resulting cost to consumer and businesses would be astronomical.
For over thirteen years the law has played a very important in my life and career. I became a military member in 1999 and over the years have seen numerous changes and interpretations of the military law in court martial as well as civilian law by the courts, that effect the way military ethics are enforced. For example, the repeal of the, “Don't ask, Don't tell,” law in the military. In society, law is used in two forms either criminal or civil law.
“Civil laws are designed to compensate parties (including businesses) for losses as a result of someone’s conduct. These losses are known as damages” (melvin, 2011, p. 18). “Criminal laws are a protection of society, and the Violation of criminal laws results in penalties to the violator such as fines or imprisonment” (melvin, 2011, p. 18). Civil law would be used if one let someone live with another for an agreed amount, but they did not pay that amount one can take them to court for the amount to be paid.
An example where Criminal law would be used is if a drunk driver injured someone while driving drunk. “He can be prosecuted by authorities, and committed a civil wrong (negligence) for which the driver can be sued by the injured party to recover for any losses suffered as a result of the injury (medical bills, etc. )” (melvin, 2011, p. 18). Law plays a role in everyone’s life either in their personal life or at work.
Many of us work under the management of others and do not realize how law plays a part in the business but it often does. Some companies opt to having in-house counsel where others only need to keep a lawyer on retainer for random use. Everyday people seek counsel for fighting a civil or criminal case where they need assistance. Each of us use law in some way even if it is as knowing your civil rights as a human being. Law keeps order in the world, the work environment, and in the court systems.
Individuals need to be aware of their rights just like businesses need to be aware of how the laws affect their organizations. The US Constitution, written 225 years ago in 1787, continues to provide our society and its people with a framework that has guided our Nation to greatness. References Laws Every Small Business Needs to Know | Legal > Commercial Law from AllBusiness. com. (n. d. ). Small Business Advice | Business News & Articles | AllBusiness. com. Retrieved November 26, 2012, from