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Portal:Law Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portal:Law

The Law Portal

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

Law is a set 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 as 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 jurisdictions, 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 may make binding case law through precedent, although on occasion this may be overturned by a higher court or the legislature. Historically, religious law has influenced secular matters and is, as of the 21st century, still in use 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.

The scope of law 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...)

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Portrait of an English lord in a judicial wig.

A Serjeant-at-Law (SL), commonly known simply as a Serjeant, was a member of an order of barristers at the English and Irish Bar. The position of Serjeant-at-Law (servientes ad legem), or Sergeant-Counter, was centuries old; there are writs dating to 1300 which identify them as descended from figures in France before the Norman Conquest, thus the Serjeants are said to be the oldest formally created order in England. The order rose during the 16th century as a small, elite group of lawyers who took much of the work in the central common law courts.

With the creation of Queen's Counsel (or "Queen's Counsel Extraordinary") during the reign of Elizabeth I, the order gradually began to decline, with each monarch opting to create more King's or Queen's Counsel. The Serjeants' exclusive jurisdictions were ended during the 19th century and, with the Judicature Act 1873 coming into force in 1875, it was felt that there was no need to have such figures, and no more were created. The last appointed was Nathaniel Lindley, later a Law Lord, who retired in 1905 and died in 1921. The number of Irish Serjeants-at-law was limited to three (originally one, later two). The last appointment was A. M. Sullivan in 1912; after his 1921 relocation to the English bar he remained "Serjeant Sullivan" as a courtesy title. (Full article...)

Selected biography

Picture of Charles Edward Magoon

Charles Edward Magoon (December 5, 1861 – January 14, 1920) was an American lawyer, judge, diplomat, and administrator who is best remembered as a governor of the Panama Canal Zone; he also served as Minister to Panama at the same time. His successes led to his appointment as an occupation governor of Cuba in 1906. He was the subject of several scandals during his career. As a legal advisor working for the United States Department of War, he drafted recommendations and reports that were used by Congress and the executive branch in governing the United States' new territories following the Spanish–American War. These reports were collected as a published book in 1902, then considered the seminal work on the subject. During his time as a governor, Magoon worked to put these recommendations into practice. In summary: Magoon was hugely successful in Panama but criticized for his tenure in Cuba. (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...)


The Obscene Publications Act 1959 (c. 66) is an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom Parliament that significantly reformed the law related to obscenity in England and Wales. Prior to the passage of the Act, the law on publishing obscene materials was governed by the common law case of R v Hicklin, which had no exceptions for artistic merit or the public good. During the 1950s, the Society of Authors formed a committee to recommend reform of the existing law, submitting a draft bill to the Home Office in February 1955. After several failed attempts to push a bill through Parliament, a committee finally succeeded in creating a viable bill, which was introduced to Parliament by Roy Jenkins and given the Royal Assent on 29 July 1959, coming into force on 29 August 1959 as the Obscene Publications Act 1959. With the committee consisting of both censors and reformers, the actual reform of the law was limited, with several extensions to police powers included in the final version.

The Act created a new offence for publishing obscene material, repealing the common law offence of obscene libel which was previously used, and also allows Justices of the Peace to issue warrants allowing the police to seize such materials. At the same time it creates two defences; firstly, the defence of innocent dissemination, and secondly the defence of public good. The Act has been used in several high-profile cases, such as the trials of Penguin Books for publishing Lady Chatterley's Lover and Oz for the Schoolkids OZ issue. (Full article...)

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Black and white photograph of a seated woman in traditional Indian dress.

  • ... that the non-payment of debts is the archetype for the seventeen other Hindu titles of law, including that of sexual crimes against women?

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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 of a group of people holding placards with "saveROE.com" on them

Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in which the Court ruled that the Constitution of the United States conferred the right to have an abortion. The decision struck down many federal and state abortion laws, and caused an ongoing abortion debate in the United States about whether, or to what extent, abortion should be legal, who should decide the legality of abortion, and what the role of moral and religious views in the political sphere should be. The decision also shaped debate concerning which methods the Supreme Court should use in constitutional adjudication.

The case was brought by Norma McCorvey—known by the legal pseudonym "Jane Roe"—who, in 1969, became pregnant with her third child. McCorvey wanted an abortion, but she lived in Texas where abortion was illegal, except when necessary to save the mother's life. Her attorneys, Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee, filed a lawsuit on her behalf in U.S. federal court against her local district attorney, Henry Wade, alleging that Texas's abortion laws were unconstitutional. A special three-judge court of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas heard the case and ruled in her favor. The parties appealed this ruling to the Supreme Court.

On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court issued a 7–2 decision holding that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides a fundamental "right to privacy", which protects a pregnant woman's right to an abortion. The Court also held that the right to abortion is not absolute and must be balanced against the government's interests in protecting women's health and prenatal life. The Court resolved these competing interests by announcing a pregnancy trimester timetable to govern all abortion regulations in the United States. The Court also classified the right to abortion as "fundamental", which required courts to evaluate challenged abortion laws under the "strict scrutiny" standard, the most stringent level of judicial review in the United States. (Full article...)

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