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. Read more...

Selected article

A black and white photograph of Nikolai Krylenko

The Ministry of Justice of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) (Russian: Министерство юстиции СССР, Ministerstvo Yustitsii SSSR), formed on 15 March 1946, was one of the most important government offices in the Soviet Union. It was formerly (until 1946) known as the People's Commissariat for Justice (Russian: Народный комиссариат юстиции, Narodniy Komissariat Yustitsi'i) abbreviated as Наркомюст (Narkomiust). The Ministry, at the All-Union (USSR-wide) level, was established on 6 July 1923, after the signing of the Treaty on the Creation of the USSR, and was in turn based upon the People's Commissariat for Justice of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) formed in 1917. The Ministry was led by the Minister of Justice, prior to 1946 a Commissar, who was nominated by the Chairman of the Council of Ministers and confirmed by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, and was a member of the Council of Ministers.

The Ministry of Justice was responsible for courts, prisons, and probations. Further responsibilities included criminal justice policy, sentencing policy, and prevention of re-offending in the USSR. The Ministry was organised into All-Union and Union departments. The All-Union level ministries were divided into separate organisations in the Republican, Autonomous Oblast, and provincial level. The leadership of the Ministry of Justice came from notable Soviet law organisations from around the country. (more...)

Selected biography

A black and white photograph of Scipio Africanus Jones

Scipio Africanus Jones (August 3, 1863 – March 2, 1943) was an American educator, lawyer, judge, philanthropist, and Republican politician from the state of Arkansas. He was most known for having guided the appeals of the twelve African-American men condemned to death after the Elaine Race Riot of October 1919. More than one hundred African Americans were indicted in the aftermath of the riot, although an estimated one hundred to two hundred Black Americans were killed in the county, along with five whites. No whites were prosecuted by the state. The case was appealed to the United States Supreme Court, which in Moore v. Dempsey (1923) set a precedent of reviewing the conduct of state criminal trials against the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Born into slavery in Smith Township near Tulip in Dallas County in south Arkansas, Jones became a successful and powerful businessman. Jones was the first lawyer in Arkansas to raise the question that African Americans had not been permitted to serve on grand juries and petit juries. In 1915, Jones broke a color barrier when he was appointed to serve as acting judge of the Little Rock police court, presiding over a case in which all the parties were blacks, as were the witnesses and attorneys except the city attorney, who supported having a Negro judge preside at this particular trial. Jones also represented Negro Shriners as part of a successful defense against efforts to keep them from using the name and paraphernalia of the Shriners organization. (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. Learn more about statutes...

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


United States Bill of Rights

The United States Bill of Rights comprises the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. Proposed following the often bitter 1787–88 debate over the ratification of the Constitution, and written to address the objections raised by Anti-Federalists, the Bill of Rights amendments add to the Constitution specific guarantees of personal freedoms and rights, clear limitations on the government's power in judicial and other proceedings, and explicit declarations that all powers not specifically granted to the U.S. Congress by the Constitution are reserved for the states or the people. The concepts codified in these amendments are built upon those found in earlier documents, especially the Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776), as well as the Northwest Ordinance (1787), the English Bill of Rights (1689), and the Magna Carta (1215).

Due largely to the efforts of Representative James Madison, who studied the deficiencies of the Constitution pointed out by anti-federalists and then crafted a series of corrective proposals, Congress approved twelve articles of amendment on September 25, 1789, and submitted them to the states for ratification. Contrary to Madison's proposal that the proposed amendments be incorporated into the main body of the Constitution (at the relevant articles and sections of the document), they were proposed as supplemental additions (codicils) to it. Articles Three through Twelve were ratified as additions to the Constitution on December 15, 1791, and became Amendments One through Ten of the Constitution. Article Two became part of the Constitution on May 5, 1992, as the Twenty-seventh Amendment. Article One is still pending before the states.

Although Madison's proposed amendments included a provision to extend the protection of some of the Bill of Rights to the states, the amendments that were finally submitted for ratification applied only to the federal government. The door for their application upon state governments was opened in the 1860s, following ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment. Since the early 20th century both federal and state courts have used the Fourteenth Amendment to apply portions of the Bill of Rights to state and local governments. The process is known as incorporation. (more...)


Did you know...

Red dresses representing missing and murdered Indigenous women.

  • ... that after the death of Olaseni Lewis, who was restrained by 11 police officers, UK law was changed to require police to wear body cameras when dealing with vulnerable people?

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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.

Learn more about case law...

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


Heraldry

Greene v Associated Newspapers Ltd [2004] EWCA Civ 1462 is a case of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales that governs the use of injunctions against publication in alleged defamation cases. Greene, a businesswoman, sought an injunction against Associated Newspapers Ltd to prevent them publishing alleged links with Peter Foster; while they claimed to have emails showing links, she asserted that they were false. The test at the time for a preliminary injunction in defamation cases was Bonnard v Perryman, where it was established that the applicant has to show "a real prospect of success" at trial. The Human Rights Act 1998 established that judges should consider whether applicants are "more likely than not" to succeed at trial, a test applied to confidentiality cases in Cream Holdings Ltd v Banerjee and the Liverpool Post and Echo Ltd. Greene claimed that the Cream test should be applied rather than the Bonnard test.

The case first went to the High Court of Justice, where it was heard by Fulford J; he decided that he did not have the authority to overrule Bonnard, and passed the case on to the Court of Appeal after granting a temporary injunction. In the Court of Appeal, the case was heard by May, Dyson and Brooke LJJ, with Brooke delivering the judgment on 5 November 2004. In it, Brooke judged that defamation, the subject of Greene, was significantly different from breach of confidentiality, the subject in Cream. While the damage from a breach of confidentiality can never be undone, justifying a simple test for issuing injunctions, a defamation case that is won vindicates the injured party. Making it easier to grant injunctions in defamation cases would damage the delicate balance between freedom of the press and the right to privacy; as such, despite the Human Rights Act, Bonnard is still a valid test. (more...)


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