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 commonly understood as a system of rules that are created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate conduct, although its precise definition is 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 collective legislature or by a single legislator, resulting in statutes, by the executive through decrees and regulations, or established by judges through precedent, normally in common law jurisdictions. Private individuals can create legally binding contracts, including arbitration agreements that may elect to accept alternative arbitration to the normal court process. The formation 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 case law 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.

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A power of attorney or letter of attorney in common law systems or mandate in civil law systems is an authorization to act on someone else's behalf in a legal or business matter. The person authorizing the other to act is the "principal" or "grantor (of the power)", and the one authorized to act is the "agent" or "attorney-in-fact". The attorney-in-fact acts "in the principal's name" -- for example, by signing the principal's name to documents.

One kind of agent, an attorney-in-fact, is a fiduciary for the principal. The law requires an attorney-in-fact to be completely honest with and loyal to the principal in their dealings with each other. If the attorney-in-fact is being paid to act for the principal, the contract is a separate matter from the power of attorney itself, so if that contract is in writing, it is a separate document, kept private between them, whereas the power of attorney is intended to be shown to various other people.

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Assata Olugbala Shakur (born JoAnne Deborah Byron; July 16, 1947, sometimes referred to by her married surname Chesimard) is a former member of the Black Liberation Army, who was convicted of the first-degree murder of State Trooper Werner Foerster during a shootout on the New Jersey Turnpike in 1973. Shakur was also the target of the FBI's COINTELPRO (counterintelligence program) directed towards Black Liberation groups and activists.

Born in Flushing, Queens, she grew up in New York City and Wilmington, North Carolina. After she ran away from home several times, her aunt, who would later act as one of her lawyers, took her in. She became involved in political activism at Borough of Manhattan Community College and City College of New York. After graduation, she began using the name Assata Shakur, and briefly joined the Black Panther Party. She then joined the Black Liberation Army, a loosely knit offshoot of the Black Panthers which led an armed struggle against the US government through tactics such as robbing banks and killing police officers and drug dealers.

Between 1971 and 1973, she was charged with several crimes and was the subject of a multi-state manhunt. In May 1973, Shakur was arrested after being wounded in a shootout on the New Jersey Turnpike. Also involved in the shootout were New Jersey State Troopers Werner Foerster and James Harper and BLA members Sundiata Acoli and Zayd Malik Shakur. Harper was wounded; Zayd was killed; Foerster was killed by Acoli. Between 1973 and 1977, she was charged with murder, attempted murder, armed robbery, bank robbery, and kidnapping in relation to the shootout and six other incidents. She was acquitted on three of the charges and three were dismissed. In 1977, she was convicted of the murder of Foerster and of seven other felonies related to the shootout.

While serving a life sentence for murder, she escaped from prison in 1979, later surfacing in Cuba in 1984 where she was granted political asylum. Shakur has lived in Cuba since 1984, despite US government efforts to have her returned. The FBI has added her to its list of most-wanted terrorists as Joanne Deborah Chesimard. (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:



The Law of the Twelve Tables (Lex Duodecim Tabularum, more informally simply Duodecim Tabulae) was the ancient legislation that stood at the foundation of Roman law. The Law of the Twelve Tables formed the centrepiece of the constitution of the Roman Republic and the core of the mos maiorum. The Twelve Tables must be carefully distinguished from the unrelated, much older "twelve shields" of King Numa Pompilius.

According to traditional, semi-legendary historical accounts preserved in Livy, during the earliest period of the Republic the laws were kept secret by the pontifices and other representatives of the patrician class, and were enforced with untoward severity, especially against the plebeian class. A plebeian named Terentilius proposed in 462 BC that an official legal code should be published, so that plebeians could not be surprised and would know the law. (more...)


Did you know...

  • ... that, in the cases of Klayman v. Obama and ACLU v. Clapper, US district courts issued conflicting rulings on the constitutionality of bulk data collection by the US government?
  • ... that in 2011, Nitehawk Cinema successfully lobbied to overturn a Prohibition-era liquor law that prevented movie theaters in New York from serving alcohol?

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  • February 15: California lawyer Michael Avenatti convicted of attempted extortion
  • February 5: Police shoot man dead after 'terrorist-related' knife attack in London
  • December 21: US House of Representatives impeaches President Trump
  • December 2: Bystanders foil knife-weilding man on London Bridge with fire extinguisher, whale tusk
  • November 1: U.S. House formalizes rules for Trump impeachment proceedings
  • October 27: US announces restrictions on flying to Cuba

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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.

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


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Cream Holdings Ltd v Banerjee [2004] UKHL 44 was a 2004 decision by the House of Lords on the impact of the Human Rights Act 1998 on freedom of expression. The Act, particularly Section 12, cautioned the courts to only grant remedies that would restrict publication before trial where it is "likely" that the trial will establish that the publication would not be allowed. Banerjee, an accountant with Cream Holdings, obtained documents which she claimed contained evidence of illegal and unsound practices on Cream's part and gave them to the Liverpool Daily Post & Echo, who ran a series of articles on 13 and 14 June 2002 asserting that a director of Cream had been bribing a local council official in Liverpool. Cream applied for an emergency injunction on 18 June in the High Court of Justice, where Lloyd J decided on 5 July that Cream had shown "a real prospect of success" at trial, granting the injunction. This judgment was confirmed by the Court of Appeal on 13 February 2003.

Leave was given to appeal to the House of Lords, where a judgment was given on 14 October 2004 by Lord Nicholls, with the other judges assenting. In it, Nicholls said that the test required by the Human Rights Act, "more likely than not", was a higher standard than "a real prospect of success", and that the Act "makes the likelihood of success at the trial an essential element in the court's consideration of whether to make an interim order", asserting that in similar cases courts should be reluctant to grant interim injunctions unless it can be shown that the claimant is "more likely than not" to succeed. At the same time, he admitted that the "real prospect of success" test was not necessarily insufficient, granting the appeal nonetheless because Lloyd J had ignored the public interest element of the disclosure. As the first confidentiality case brought after the Human Rights Act, Cream is the leading case used in British "breach of confidentiality" cases. (more...)


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