Portal:Law

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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 that are created and are enforceable by 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. (Full article...)

Selected article

To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel by the American author Harper Lee. It was published in 1960 and was instantly successful. In the United States, it is widely read in high schools and middle schools. To Kill a Mockingbird has become a classic of modern American literature, winning the Pulitzer Prize. The plot and characters are loosely based on Lee's observations of her family, her neighbors and an event that occurred near her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, in 1936, when she was ten.

Despite dealing with the serious issues of rape and racial inequality, the novel is renowned for its warmth and humor. Atticus Finch, the narrator's father, has served as a moral hero for many readers and as a model of integrity for lawyers. The historian Joseph Crespino explains, "In the twentieth century, To Kill a Mockingbird is probably the most widely read book dealing with race in America, and its main character, Atticus Finch, the most enduring fictional image of racial heroism." As a Southern Gothic novel and Bildungsroman, the primary themes of To Kill a Mockingbird involve racial injustice and the destruction of innocence. Scholars have noted that Lee also addresses issues of class, courage, compassion, and gender roles in the Deep South. The book is widely taught in schools in the United States with lessons that emphasize tolerance and decry prejudice. Despite its themes, To Kill a Mockingbird has been subject to campaigns for removal from public classrooms, often challenged for its use of racial epithets. In 2006, British librarians ranked the book ahead of the Bible as one "every adult should read before they die". (Full article...)

Selected biography

Choor Singh Sidhu (19 January 1911 – 31 March 2009), known professionally as Choor Singh, was a Singaporean lawyer who served as a judge of the Supreme Court of Singapore and, particularly after his retirement from the bench, a philanthropist and writer of books about Sikhism. Born to a family of modest means in Punjab, India, he came to Singapore at four years of age. He completed his secondary education in the top class at Raffles Institution in 1929, then worked as a clerk in a law firm before becoming a civil servant in the Official Assignee's office.

Encouraged by the Assistant Official Assignee, James Walter Davy Ambrose (who was later appointed a High Court Judge), to study law, Choor Singh enrolled as an external student at the University of London, passing the matriculation examination and intermediate LL.B. examination. In 1948 he was appointed a coroner, and the following year was elevated to the post of magistrate, becoming the first Indian to hold such a position in colonial Malaya. Following law studies at Gray's Inn on a government scholarship, he became a Barrister-at-Law in 1955. He was appointed a district judge in 1960 and a judge of the Supreme Court in 1963. Especially noted for his criminal judgments, Singh was the first Singapore judge to impose the death penalty on a woman. (Full article...)

Selected 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...)


A black and white photograph of Clement Attlee

The Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949 are two Acts of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which form part of the constitution of the United Kingdom. Section 2(2) of the Parliament Act 1949 provides that the two Acts are to be construed as one.

The Parliament Act 1911 (1 & 2 Geo. 5. c. 13) asserted the supremacy of the House of Commons by limiting the legislation-blocking powers of the House of Lords (the suspensory veto). Provided the provisions of the Act are met, legislation can be passed without the approval of the House of Lords. Additionally, the 1911 Act amended the Septennial Act 1716 to reduce the maximum life of a Parliament from seven years to five years. The Parliament Act 1911 was amended by the Parliament Act 1949 (12, 13 & 14 Geo. 6. c. 103), which further limited the power of the Lords by reducing the time that they could delay bills, from two years to one.

The Parliament Acts have been used to pass legislation against the wishes of the House of Lords on seven occasions since 1911, including the passing of the Parliament Act 1949. Some constitutional lawyers had questioned the validity of the 1949 Act. These doubts were rejected in 2005 when members of the Countryside Alliance unsuccessfully challenged the validity of the Hunting Act 2004, which had been passed under the auspices of the Act. In October 2005, the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords dismissed the Alliance's appeal against this decision, with an unusually large panel of nine Law Lords (out of then-existing twelve) holding that the 1949 Act was a valid Act of Parliament. (Full article...)

Did you know...

  • ... that although Elizabeth Richards Tilton (pictured) was a central figure in a six-month-long trial, she was never allowed to speak in court?

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Selected case

Case law, also used interchangeably with common law, is law that is based on precedents, that is the judicial decisions from previous cases, rather than law based on constitutions, statutes, or regulations. Case law uses the detailed facts of a case that have been resolved by courts or similar tribunals. 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, drawing on established judicial authority to formulate their positions. (Full article...)


A photograph on the left shows a thin man with a small moustache; a photograph on the right shows a large man with a beard but no moustache; the central image is the blended product of these images

The Tichborne case was a legal cause célèbre that captivated Victorian England in the 1860s and 1870s. It concerned the claims by a man sometimes referred to as Thomas Castro or as Arthur Orton, but usually termed "the Claimant", to be the missing heir to the Tichborne baronetcy. He failed to convince the courts, was convicted of perjury and served a long prison sentence.

Roger Tichborne, heir to the family's title and fortunes, was presumed to have died in a shipwreck in 1854 at age 25. His mother clung to a belief that he might have survived, and after hearing rumours that he had made his way to Australia, she advertised extensively in Australian newspapers, offering a reward for information. In 1866, a Wagga Wagga butcher known as Thomas Castro came forward claiming to be Roger Tichborne. Although his manners and bearing were unrefined, he gathered support and travelled to England. He was instantly accepted by Lady Tichborne as her son, although other family members were dismissive and sought to expose him as an impostor.

During protracted enquiries before the case went to court in 1871, details emerged suggesting that the Claimant might be Arthur Orton, a butcher's son from Wapping in London, who had gone to sea as a boy and had last been heard of in Australia. After a civil court had rejected the Claimant's case, he was charged with perjury; while awaiting trial he campaigned throughout the country to gain popular support. In 1874, a criminal court jury decided that he was not Roger Tichborne and declared him to be Arthur Orton. Before passing a sentence of 14 years, the judge condemned the behaviour of the Claimant's counsel, Edward Kenealy, who was subsequently disbarred because of his conduct. (Full article...)

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