In principle, a sheriff is a legal official with responsibility for a county. In practice, the specific combination of legal, political, and ceremonial duties of a sheriff varies greatly from country to country.
The word "sheriff" is a contraction of the term "shire reeve". The term, from the Old English scirgerefa, designated a royal official responsible for keeping the peace (a "reeve") throughout a shire or county on behalf of the king. The term was preserved in England notwithstanding the Norman Conquest. From the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms the term spread to several other regions, at an early point to Scotland, latterly to Ireland, and to the United States.
Sheriffs exist in various countries:
Sheriffs are administrative legal officials similar to bailiffs in the Republic of Ireland, Australia, and Canada (with expanded duties in certain provinces).
Sheriffs are judges in Scotland.
Sheriff is a ceremonial position in England, Wales, and India.
In the United States of America, the scope of a sheriff varies across states and counties. The sheriff is always a county official, and serves as the arm of the county court. In urban areas a sheriff may be restricted to court duties such as administering the county jail, providing courtroom security and prisoner transport, serving warrants, and serving process. Sheriffs and their deputies may serve as the principal police force.
In British English, the political or legal office of a sheriff is called a shrievalty.
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior. Laws are made by governments, specifically by their legislatures. The formation of laws themselves may be influenced by a constitution (written or unwritten) and the rig
ts encoded therein. The law shapes politics, economics and society in countless ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people.
A general distinction can be made between civil law jurisdictions (including Canon and Socialist law), in which the legislature or other central body codifies and consolidates their laws, and common law systems (including Islamic law), where judge-made binding precedents are accepted. Historically, religious laws played a significant role even in settling of secular matters, which is still the case in some countries, particularly Islamic.
The adjudication of the law is generally divided into two main areas. Criminal law deals with conduct that is considered harmful to social order and in which the guilty party may be imprisoned or fined. Civil law (not to be confused with civil law jurisdictions above) deals with the resolution of lawsuits (disputes) between individuals or organizations. These resolutions seek to provide a legal remedy (often monetary damages) to the winning litigant.
Under civil law, the following specialties, among others, exist: Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus ticket to trading on derivatives markets. Property law regulates the transfer and title of personal property and real property. Trust law applies to assets held for investment and financial security. Tort law allows claims for compensation if a person's property is harmed. Constitutional law provides a framework for the creation of law, the protection of human rights and the election of political representatives. Administrative law is used to review the decisions of government agencies. International law governs affairs between sovereign states in activities ranging from trade to military action.