Portal:Law


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Law is a system of rules, usually enforced through a set of institutions. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a primary social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus ticket to trading on derivatives markets. Property law defines rights and obligations related to the transfer and title of personal (often referred to as chattel) and real property. Trust law applies to assets held for investment and financial security, while tort law allows claims for compensation if a person's rights or property are harmed. If the harm is criminalised in a statute, criminal law offers means by which the state can prosecute the perpetrator. Constitutional law provides a framework for the creation of law, the protection of human rights and the election of political representatives. Administrative law is used to review the decisions of government agencies, while international law governs affairs between sovereign states in activities ranging from trade to environmental regulation or military action. Writing in 350 BC, the Greek philosopher Aristotle declared: "The rule of law is better than the rule of any individual."

Legal systems elaborate rights and responsibilities in a variety of ways. A general distinction can be made between civil law jurisdictions, which codify their laws, and common law systems, where judge made law is not consolidated. In some countries, religion informs the law. Law provides a rich source of scholarly inquiry, into legal history, philosophy, economic analysis or sociology. Law also raises important and complex issues concerning equality, fairness and justice. "In its majestic equality", said the author Anatole France in 1894, "the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread." In a typical democracy, the central institutions for interpreting and creating law are the three main branches of government, namely an impartial judiciary, a democratic legislature, and an accountable executive. To implement and enforce the law and provide services to the public, a government's bureaucracy, the military and police are vital. While all these organs of the state are creatures created and bound by law, an independent legal profession and a vibrant civil society inform and support their progress. (More…)

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Douglas sits facing slightly to the left, but with his blue eyes, wrinkled face and white head of hair looking to the right of the painting. He has a piece of paper in his right hand.

This is a list of U.S. Supreme Court Justices by time in office, counted in days. The period of service for Justices ranges from William O. Douglas's 13,358 days (36 years) on the Court to the 163–day tenure of Thomas Johnson. A nominee who was confirmed by the United States Senate but declined to serve, such as Robert H. Harrison, or who died before taking his seat, such as Edwin M. Stanton, would not be considered to have served as a Justice. The Term Start date is the day the Justice took the oath of office, with the Term End date being the date of the Justice's death, resignation, or retirement. A highlighted row indicates that the Justice is currently serving on the Court. (more...)

Selected biography

A black and white photograph of Birkett

William Norman Birkett, 1st Baron Birkett, QC PC (6 September 1883 – 10 February 1962) was a British barrister, judge, politician and preacher who served as the alternate British judge during the Nuremberg Trials. He received his education at Barrow-in-Furness Grammar School. He was a Methodist preacher and a draper before attending Emmanuel College, Cambridge in 1907, to study theology, history and law. He was called to the Bar in 1913.

Birkett was made a King's Counsel in 1924. He became a criminal defence lawyer and acted as counsel in a number of famous cases including the second of the Brighton trunk murders. A member of the Liberal Party, he sat in Parliament for Nottingham East twice.

He was accepted appointment to the High Court of Justice in 1941. In 1945 he served as the alternate British judge at the Nuremberg trials, and he was made a Privy Counsellor in 1947. He joined the Court of Appeal of England and Wales in 1950 but retired in 1956 when he had served for long enough to draw a pension. From 1958 he served in the House of Lords, and his speech against a private bill in 1962 saw it defeated by 70 votes to 36, two days before he died on 10 February 1962. (more...)

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Selected picture

A statute of a seated judge
Photograph taken by dbking and uploaded by Gary Dee
Chief Justice John Marshall (1755 – 1835), an American statesman and jurist who greatly influenced constitutional law

Selected case

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission v Baxter Healthcare was a decision of the High Court of Australia, which ruled on 29 August 2007 that Baxter Healthcare Proprietary Limited, a tenderer for various government contracts, was bound by the Trade Practices Act 1974 (Australian legislation governing anti-competitive behaviour) in its trade and commerce in tendering for government contracts. More generally, the case concerned the principles of derivative governmental immunity: whether the immunity of a government from a statute extends to third parties that conduct business with the government.

The High Court's judgment marked a successful appeal for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the Australian regulator of anti-competitive conduct, having lost at first instance and on appeal in the Federal Court of Australia. The ACCC was again successful when the case was remitted to the Federal Court for reconsideration, ending eight years of litigation between the parties. The High Court's judgment was received as a significant precedent in the law of derivative governmental immunity in Australia. (more...)

Selected statute

The illustration depicts Edward II, seated on a throne and with a sceptre in his left hand, receiving his crown. His left hand is raised to the crown already on his head.

The Ordinances of 1311 were a series of regulations imposed upon King Edward II by the peerage and clergy of the Kingdom of England to restrict the power of the king. The twenty-one signatories of the Ordinances are referred to as the Lords Ordainers, or simply the Ordainers. English setbacks in the Scottish war, combined with perceived extortionate royal fiscal policies, set the background for the writing of the Ordinances in which the administrative prerogatives of the king were largely appropriated by a baronial council. The Ordinances reflect the Provisions of Oxford and the Provisions of Westminster from the late 1250s, but unlike the Provisions, the Ordinances featured a new concern with fiscal reform, specifically redirecting revenues from the king's household to the exchequer.

Just as instrumental to their conception were other issues, particularly discontent with the king's favourite, Piers Gaveston, whom the barons subsequently banished from the realm. Edward II accepted the Ordinances only under coercion, and a long struggle for their repeal ensued that did not end until Thomas of Lancaster – the leader of the Ordainers – was executed in 1322. (more...)

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