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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A royal document with signatures

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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A large crowd of predominantly black people are seen on the march.

The Jena Six were six black teenagers in Jena, Louisiana, convicted in the 2006 beating of Justin Barker, a white student at the local Jena High School, which they also attended. Barker was injured on December 4, 2006, by the members of the Jena Six, and received treatment at an emergency room. While the case was pending, it was often cited by some media commentators as an example of racial injustice in the United States. Some commentators believed that the defendants had been charged initially with too-serious offenses and had been treated unfairly.

A number of events had taken place in and around Jena in the months before the Barker assault, which the media have associated with an alleged escalation of local racial tensions. These events included the hanging of rope nooses from a tree in the high school courtyard, two violent confrontations between white and black youths, and the destruction by fire of the main building of Jena High School. Extensive news coverage related to the Jena Six often reported these events as linked. Federal and parish attorneys concluded from their investigations that assessment was inaccurate for some of the events; for instance, the burning of the high school was an attempt to destroy grade records. (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 Trustee Act 2000 (c 29) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that regulates the duties of trustees in English trust law. Reform in these areas had been advised as early as 1982, and finally came about through the Trustee Bill 2000, based on the Law Commission's 1999 report "Trustees' Powers and Duties", which was introduced to the House of Lords in January 2000. The bill received the Royal Assent on 23 November 2000 and came into force on 1 February 2001 through the Trustee Act 2000 (Commencement) Order 2001, a Statutory Instrument, with the Act having effect over England and Wales.

The Act covers five areas of trust law: the duty of care imposed upon trustees, trustees' power of investment, the power to appoint nominees and agents, the power to acquire land, and the power to receive remuneration for work done as a trustee. It sets a new duty of care, both objective and standard, massively extends the trustees' power of investment and limits the trustees' liability for the actions of agents, also providing for their remuneration for work done in the course of the trust. (Full article...) (more...)


Did you know...

Image of a courthouse.

  • ... that English gynaecologist Margaret Puxon, who started studying law to prevent boredom while on maternity leave, eventually became a barrister?

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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...)

Learn more about case law...

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


A painting of some rocks in the middle of the sea

The Pedra Branca dispute was a territorial dispute between Singapore and Malaysia over several islets at the eastern entrance to the Singapore Strait, namely Pedra Branca (previously called Pulau Batu Puteh and now Batu Puteh by Malaysia), Middle Rocks and South Ledge. The dispute began in 1979 and was largely resolved by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2008, which opined that Pedra Branca belonged to Singapore and Middle Rocks belonged to Malaysia. Sovereignty over South Ledge belongs to the state in the territorial waters of which it is located.

In early 1980, Singapore lodged a formal protest with Malaysia in response to a map published by Malaysia in 1979 claiming Pedra Branca. In 1989 Singapore proposed submitting the dispute to the ICJ. Malaysia agreed to this in 1994. In 1993, Singapore also claimed the nearby islets Middle Rocks and South Ledge. In 1998 the two countries agreed on the text of a Special Agreement that was needed to submit the dispute to the ICJ. The Special Agreement was signed in February 2003, and the ICJ formally notified of the Agreement in July that year. The hearing before the ICJ was held over three weeks in November 2007 under the name Sovereignty over Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh, Middle Rocks and South Ledge (Malaysia v. Singapore).

On 23 May 2008, the Court ruled that Pedra Branca is under Singapore's sovereignty, while Middle Rocks belongs to Malaysia. As regards South Ledge, the Court noted that it falls within the apparently overlapping territorial waters generated by mainland Malaysia, Pedra Branca and Middle Rocks. As it is a maritime feature visible only at low tide, it belongs to the state in the territorial waters of which it is located. Malaysia and Singapore have established what they have named the Joint Technical Committee to delimit the maritime boundary in the area around Pedra Branca and Middle Rocks, and to determine the ownership of South Ledge. (Full article...) (more...)


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