Substantive Law

In principle what is meant by substantive law is the law that defines the legal rights of parties vis-a-vis one another or with respect to the state.  Thus in a lawsuit contracts, property law, torts, civil rights, employment law, etc. would normally be regarded as substantive.  By contrast “procedural law” refers to the rules that govern how a case is tried before the courts or tribunals of a jurisdiciton (or what arbitration law applies.)

In practice the distinction is messy – there are many issues of procedural law, such as rules of evidence, burden of proof, discovery, pre-judgement interest, injunctive relief, etc. that have a very substantive impact on litigation.  Moreover, different jurisdictions will have different views and rules as to what is procedural and what is substantive and indeed different choice of law rules.



Related Terms