Portal:Law


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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In 1936 a constitutional crisis in the British Empire arose when King-Emperor Edward VIII proposed to marry Wallis Simpson, an American socialite who was divorced from her first husband and was pursuing the divorce of her second.

The marriage was opposed by the governments of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth. Religious, legal, political, and moral objections were raised. As the British monarch, Edward was the nominal head of the Church of England, which did not allow divorced people to remarry in church if their ex-spouses were still alive. For this reason, it was widely believed that Edward could not marry Simpson and remain on the throne. Simpson was perceived to be politically and socially unsuitable as a prospective queen consort because of her two previous marriages. It was widely assumed by the Establishment that she was driven by love of money or position rather than love for the King. Despite the opposition, Edward declared that he loved Simpson and intended to marry her as soon as her second divorce was finalised.

The widespread unwillingness to accept Simpson as the King's consort and Edward's refusal to give her up led to his abdication in December 1936. He was succeeded by his brother Albert, who became George VI. Edward was given the title of Duke of Windsor, and styled Royal Highness, following his abdication, and he married Simpson the following year. They remained married until his death 35 years later. (Full article...) (more...)

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William Mark Felt Sr. (August 17, 1913 – December 18, 2008) was an American law enforcement officer who worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) from 1942 to 1973 and was known for his role in the Watergate scandal. Felt was an FBI special agent who eventually rose to the position of Associate Director, the Bureau's second-highest-ranking post. Felt worked in several FBI field offices prior to his promotion to the Bureau's headquarters. In 1980 he was convicted of having violated the civil rights of people thought to be associated with members of the Weather Underground, by ordering FBI agents to break into their homes and search the premises as part of an attempt to prevent bombings. He was ordered to pay a fine, but was pardoned by President Ronald Reagan during his appeal.

In 2005, at age 91, Felt revealed to Vanity Fair magazine that during his tenure as associate director of the FBI he had been the notorious anonymous source known as "Deep Throat" who provided The Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein with critical information about the Watergate scandal, which ultimately led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974. Though Felt's identity as Deep Throat was suspected, including by Nixon himself, it had generally remained a secret for 30 years. Felt finally acknowledged that he was Deep Throat after being persuaded by his daughter to reveal his identity before his death. (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 Occupiers' Liability Act 1957 (c. 31) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that covers occupiers' liability. The result of the Third Report of the Law Reform Committee, the Act was introduced to Parliament as the Occupiers' Liability Bill and granted the Royal Assent on 6 June 1957, coming into force on 1 January 1958. The Act unified several classes of visitors to property and the duty of care owed to them by the occupier, as well as codifying elements of the common law relating to this duty of care. It also covered the duty owed to parties to a contract entering the property and ways of excluding the liability for visitors. The Act introduced an element of liability for landlords who failed to maintain their properties and were as a result responsible for the injury of a non-tenant, something counter to the previous common law rule in English law. The Act is still valid law, and forms much of the law relating to occupiers' liability in English law along with the Occupiers' Liability Act 1984. (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...)

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


Ashford v Thornton (1818) 106 ER 149 is an English law case in the Court of King's Bench which upheld the right of the defendant to trial by battle on a private appeal from an acquittal for murder.

In 1817, Abraham Thornton was charged with the murder of Mary Ashford. Thornton had met Ashford at a dance and had walked with her from the event. The next morning, she was found drowned in a pit with little evidence of violence. Public opinion was heavily against Thornton, but the jury quickly acquitted him and found him not guilty of rape.

Mary's brother William Ashford launched an appeal, and Thornton was rearrested. Thornton claimed the right to trial by battle, a medieval usage that had never been repealed by Parliament. Ashford argued that the evidence against Thornton was overwhelming and that he was thus ineligible to wage battle.

The court decided that the evidence against Thornton was not overwhelming, and that trial by battle was a permissible option under law. Ashford declined the offer of battle, however, and therefore Thornton was freed from custody. Appeals such as Ashford's were abolished by statute in 1819, and with them the right to trial by battle. Thornton emigrated to the United States. (Full article...) (more...)


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