Definition of substantive law
substantive law (uncountable)
- (law) The statutory or written law that governs rights and obligations of those who are subject to it.
Substantive law is the statutory or written law that governs rights and obligations of those who are subject to it. Substantive law defines the legal relationship of people with other people or between them and the state. Substantive law stands in contrast to procedural law, which comprises the rules by which a court hears and determines what happens in civil or criminal proceedings. Procedural law deals with the method and means by which substantive law is made and administered. The time allowed for one party to sue another and the rules of law governing the process of the lawsuit are examples of procedural laws. Substantive law defines crimes and punishments (in the criminal law) as well as civil rights and responsibilities in civil law. It is codified in legislated statutes or can be enacted through the initiative process.
Another way of summarizing the difference between substantive and procedural is as follows: Substantive rules of law define rights and duties, while procedural rules of law provide the machinery for enforcing those rights and duties. However, the way to this clear differentiation between substantive law and, serving the substantive law, procedural law has been long, since in the Roman civil procedure the actio included both substantive and procedural elements (see procedural law). 
Notes and references
- Reed, Shedd, Corley, and Morehead, The Legal and Regulatory Environment of Business.
- Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.