Portal:Law

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The Law Portal

Lady Justice, often used as a personification of the law, holding a sword in one scales in the other.

Law is a system of rules created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior, with its precise definition a matter of longstanding debate. It has been variously described as a science and the art of justice. State-enforced laws can be made by a group legislature or by a single legislator, resulting in statutes; by the executive through decrees and regulations; or established by judges through precedent, usually in common law jurisdictions. Private individuals may create legally binding contracts, including arbitration agreements that adopt alternative ways of resolving disputes to standard court litigation. The creation of laws themselves may be influenced by a constitution, written or tacit, and the rights encoded therein. The law shapes politics, economics, history and society in various ways and serves as a mediator of relations between people.

Legal systems vary between countries, with their differences analysed in comparative law. In civil law jurisdictions, a legislature or other central body codifies and consolidates the law. In common law systems, judges make binding case law through precedent, although on occasion this may be overturned by a higher court or the legislature. Historically, religious law influenced secular matters, and is still used in some religious communities. Sharia law based on Islamic principles is used as the primary legal system in several countries, including Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Law's scope can be divided into two domains. Public law concerns government and society, including constitutional law, administrative law, and criminal law. Private law deals with legal disputes between individuals and/or organisations in areas such as contracts, property, torts/delicts and commercial law. This distinction is stronger in civil law countries, particularly those with a separate system of administrative courts; by contrast, the public-private law divide is less pronounced in common law jurisdictions.

Law provides a source of scholarly inquiry into legal history, philosophy, economic analysis and sociology. Law also raises important and complex issues concerning equality, fairness, and justice. (Full article...)

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The CSI effect is any of several ways in which the exaggerated portrayal of forensic science on crime television shows such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation influences public perception. The term most often refers to the belief that jurors have come to demand more forensic evidence in criminal trials, thereby raising the effective standard of proof for prosecutors. While this belief is widely held among American legal professionals, some studies have suggested that crime shows are unlikely to cause such an effect, although frequent CSI viewers may place a lower value on circumstantial evidence. As technology improves and becomes more prevalent throughout society, people may also develop higher expectations for the capabilities of forensic technology.

There are several other manifestations of the CSI effect. Greater public awareness of forensic science has also increased the demand for forensic evidence in police investigations, inflating workloads for crime laboratories. The number and popularity of forensic science programs at the university level have greatly increased worldwide, though some new programs have been criticized for inadequately preparing their students for real forensic work. It is possible that forensic science shows teach criminals how to conceal evidence of their crimes, thereby making it more difficult for investigators to solve cases. (more...)

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The face of a middle-aged Sherman Minton with dark hair and a prominent nose looking directly forward with a slight smile

Sherman "Shay" Minton (October 20, 1890 – April 9, 1965) was a United States Senator from Indiana and later an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He was a member of the Democratic Party.

After attending college and law school, Minton served as a captain in World War I, following which he launched a legal and political career. In 1930, after multiple failed election attempts, and serving as a regional leader in the American Legion, he became a utility commissioner under the administration of Indiana Governor Paul V. McNutt. Four years later Minton was elected to the United States Senate. During the campaign, he defended New Deal legislation in a series of addresses in which he suggested it was not necessary to uphold the United States Constitution during the Great Depression. Minton's campaign was denounced by his political opponents, and he received more widespread criticism for an address that became known as the "You Cannot Eat the Constitution" speech. As part of the New Deal Coalition, Minton championed President Franklin D. Roosevelt's unsuccessful court packing plans in the Senate and became one of his top Senate allies.

After Minton failed in his 1940 Senate reelection bid, Roosevelt appointed him as a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. After Roosevelt's death, President Harry S. Truman, who had developed a close friendship with Minton during their time together in the Senate, nominated him to the Supreme Court. He was confirmed by the Senate on October 4, 1949, by a vote of 48 to 16, 15 Republicans and one Democrat (Harry Flood Byrd of Virginia) voting against him. He served on the Supreme Court for seven years. An advocate of judicial restraint, Minton was a regular supporter of the majority opinions during his early years on the Court; he became a regular dissenter after President Dwight Eisenhower's appointees altered the court's composition. In 1956, poor health forced Minton to retire, after which he traveled and lectured until his death in 1965. (Full article...) (more...)

What is a statute?

A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislative authority that governs the legal entities of a city, state, or country by way of consent. Typically, statutes command or prohibit something, or declare policy. Statutes are rules made by legislative bodies; they are distinguished from case law or precedent, which is decided by courts, and regulations issued by government agencies. (Full article...) Learn more about statutes...

Following is an example of a noted statute or comparable written law:



The Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999 (c. 31) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that significantly reformed the common law doctrine of privity and "thereby [removed] one of the most universally disliked and criticised blots on the legal landscape". The second rule of the Doctrine of Privity, that a third party could not enforce a contract for which he had not provided consideration, had been widely criticised by lawyers, academics and members of the judiciary. Proposals for reform via an act of Parliament were first made in 1937 by the Law Revision Committee in their Sixth Interim Report. No further action was taken by the government until the 1990s, when the Law Commission proposed a new draft bill in 1991, and presented their final report in 1996. The bill was introduced to the House of Lords in December 1998, and moved to the House of Commons on 14 June 1999. It received the Royal Assent on 11 November 1999, coming into force immediately as the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999.

The act allows third parties to enforce terms of contracts that benefit them in some way, or which the contract allows them to enforce. It also grants them access to a range of remedies if the terms are breached. The act also limits the ways in which a contract can be changed without the permission of an involved third party. At the same time, it provides protection for the promisor and promisee in situations where there is a dispute with the third party, and allows parties to a contract to specifically exclude the protection afforded by the Act if they want to limit the involvement of third parties. (Full article...) (more...)


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What is case law?

Case law is the collection of past legal decisions written by courts and similar tribunals in the course of deciding cases, in which the law was analyzed using these cases to resolve ambiguities for deciding current cases. These past decisions are called "case law", or precedent. Stare decisis—a Latin phrase meaning "let the decision stand"—is the principle by which judges are bound to such past decisions. These judicial interpretations are distinguished from statutory law, which are codes enacted by legislative bodies, and regulatory law, which are established by executive agencies based on statutes. In some jurisdictions, case law can be applied to ongoing adjudication; for example, criminal proceedings or family law.

In common law countries (including the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand), the term case law is a near-exact synonym for common law. It is used for judicial decisions of selected appellate courts, courts of first instance, agency tribunals, and other bodies discharging adjudicatory functions. (Full article...)

Learn more about case law...

For examples of noted cases, see Lists of case law. Following is one example of such a noted case:


Slade's Case (or Slade v. Morley) was a case in English contract law that ran from 1596 to 1602. Under the medieval common law, claims seeking the repayment of a debt or other matters could only be pursued through a writ of debt in the Court of Common Pleas, a problematic and archaic process. By 1558 the lawyers had succeeded in creating another method, enforced by the Court of King's Bench, through the action of assumpsit, which was technically for deceit. The legal fiction used was that by failing to pay after promising to do so, a defendant had committed deceit, and was liable to the plaintiff. The conservative Common Pleas, through the appellate court the Court of Exchequer Chamber, began to overrule decisions made by the King's Bench on assumpsit, causing friction between the courts.

In Slade's Case, a case under assumpsit, which was brought between judges of the Common Pleas and King's Bench, was transferred to the Court of Exchequer Chamber where the King's Bench judges were allowed to vote. The case dragged on for five years, with the judgment finally being delivered in 1602 by the Chief Justice of the King's Bench, John Popham. Popham ruled that assumpsit claims were valid, a decision called a "watershed" moment in English law, with archaic and outdated principles being overwritten by the modern and effective assumpsit, which soon became the main cause of action in contract cases. This is also seen as an example of judicial legislation, with the courts making a revolutionary decision Parliament had failed to make. (Full article...) (more...)


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