Portal:Law

Introduction

Iustitia (“Lady Justice“) is a symbolic personification of the coercive power of a tribunal: a sword representing state authority, scales representing an objective standard, and a blindfold indicating that justice should be impartial.

Law is a system of rules that are created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It has been defined both as “the Science of Justice” and “the Art of Justice”. Law is a system that regulates and ensures that individuals or a community adhere to the will of the state. 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.

A general distinction can be made between (a) civil law jurisdictions, in which a legislature or other central body codifies and consolidates their laws, and (b) common law systems, where judge-made precedent is accepted as binding law. Historically, religious laws played a significant role even in settling of secular matters, and is still used in some religious communities. Islamic Sharia law is the world’s most widely used religious law, and is used as the primary legal system in some countries, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Selected article

A black and white photograph of Bricker

The Bricker Amendment is the collective name of a series of proposed amendments to the United States Constitution considered by the United States Senate in the 1950s. These amendments would have placed restrictions on the scope and ratification of treaties and executive agreements entered into by the United States and are named for their sponsor, Senator John W. Bricker of Ohio, a conservative Republican.

The best-known version of the Bricker Amendment, considered by the Senate in 1953–54, declared that no treaty could be made by the United States that conflicted with the Constitution, was self-executing without the passage of separate enabling legislation through Congress, or which granted Congress legislative powers beyond those specified in the Constitution. It also limited the president’s power to enter into executive agreements with foreign powers.

Bricker’s proposal attracted broad bipartisan support and was a focal point of intra-party conflict between the administration of president Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Old Right faction of conservative Republican senators. Despite the initial support, the Bricker Amendment was blocked through the intervention of President Eisenhower and failed in the Senate by a single vote in 1954. Three years later the Supreme Court of the United States explicitly ruled in Reid v. Covert that the Bill of Rights cannot be abrogated by agreements with foreign powers. Nevertheless, Senator Bricker’s ideas still have supporters, and new versions of his amendment have been reintroduced in Congress periodically. (more…)

Selected biography

A black and white illustration depicts an upright young lady in a Tudor dress with a hunched old woman in the archetypal attire of a witch (a long black dress, large cane and pointed black hat) holding on to her left arm. A large crowd stands behind the pair.

The trials of the Pendle witches in 1612 are among the most famous witch trials in English history, and some of the best recorded of the 17th century. The twelve accused lived in the area around Pendle Hill in Lancashire, and were charged with the murders of ten people by the use of witchcraft. All but two were tried at Lancaster Assizes on 18–19 August 1612, along with the Samlesbury witches and others, in a series of trials that have become known as the Lancashire witch trials. One was tried at York Assizes on 27 July 1612, and another died in prison. Of the eleven who went to trial – nine women and two men – ten were found guilty and executed by hanging; one was found not guilty.

The official publication of the proceedings by the clerk to the court, Thomas Potts, in his The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster, and the number of witches hanged together – nine at Lancaster and one at York – make the trials unusual for England at that time. It has been estimated that all of the English witch trials between the early 15th and early 18th centuries resulted in fewer than 500 executions; this series of trials accounts for more than two per cent of that total. (more…)

Did you know…

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

Selected images

Selected case

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

Roe v. Wade was the landmark 1973 United States Supreme Court decision that recognized abortion as a constitutional right, overturning several state laws against abortion. It remains one of the most controversial decisions in Supreme Court history. The decision in Roe v. Wade has sparked a decades-long national debate over when abortion should be legal; the role of the Supreme Court in constitutional adjudication; and the role of religious views in the political sphere. Roe v. Wade became one of the most politically significant Supreme Court decisions in history, reshaping national politics, dividing the nation into “pro-choice” and “pro-life” camps, and inspiring grassroots activism. Roe sparked widespread opposition, from those who viewed the Court’s decision as illegitimate for straying too far from the text and history of the Constitution, as well as from those motivated by religious and moral beliefs about the inviolability of fetal life. It also attracted widespread support, from those who view the decision as necessary to achieve women’s equality and personal freedom. (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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