The Law Portal
Law is commonly understood as a system of rules that are created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior, although its precise definition is 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 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.
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 case law 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.
Nuisance in English law is an area of tort law broadly divided into two torts; private nuisance, where the actions of the defendant are "causing a substantial and unreasonable interference with a [claimant]'s land or his/her use or enjoyment of that land", and public nuisance, where the defendant's actions "materially affects the reasonable comfort and convenience of life of a class of Her Majesty's subjects"; public nuisance is also a crime. Both torts have been present from the time of Henry III, being affected by a variety of philosophical shifts through the years which saw them become first looser and then far more stringent and less protecting of an individual's rights. Each tort requires the claimant to prove that the defendant's actions caused interference, which was unreasonable, and in some situations the intention of the defendant may also be taken into account. A significant difference is that private nuisance does not allow a claimant to claim for any personal injury suffered, while public nuisance does.
Private nuisance has received a range of criticism, with academics arguing that its concepts are poorly defined and open to judicial manipulation; Conor Gearty has written that "Private nuisance has, if anything, become even more confused and confusing. Its chapter lies neglected in the standard works, little changed over the years, its modest message overwhelmed by the excitements to be found elsewhere in tort. Any sense of direction which may have existed in the old days is long gone". In addition, it has been claimed that the tort of private nuisance has "lost its separate identity as a strict liability tort and been assimilated in all but name into the fault-based tort of negligence", and that private and public nuisance "have little in common except the accident of sharing the same name". (more...)
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 surrounding 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 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...)
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.
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Following is an example of a noted statute or comparable written law:
Article 9 of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore, specifically Article 9(1), guarantees the right to life and the right to personal liberty. The Court of Appeal has called the right to life the most basic of human rights, but has yet to fully define the term in the Constitution. Contrary to the broad position taken in jurisdictions such as Malaysia and the United States, the High Court of Singapore has said that personal liberty only refers to freedom from unlawful incarceration or detention.
Article 9(1) states that persons may be deprived of life or personal liberty "in accordance with law". In Ong Ah Chuan v. Public Prosecutor (1980), an appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council from Singapore, it was held that the term law means more than just legislation validly enacted by Parliament, and includes fundamental rules of natural justice. Subsequently, in (2011), the Court of Appeal held that such fundamental rules of natural justice embodied in the Constitution are the same in nature and function as common law rules of natural justice in administrative law, except that they operate at different levels of the legal order. A related decision, Yong Vui Kong v. Public Prosecutor (2010), apparently rejected the contention that Article 9(1) entitles courts to examine the substantive fairness of legislation, though it asserted a judicial discretion to reject bills of attainder and absurd or arbitrary legislation. In the same case, the Court of Appeal held that law in Article 9(1) does not include rules of customary international law.
Other subsections of Article 9 enshrine rights accorded to persons who have been arrested, namely, the right to apply to the High Court to challenge the legality of their detention, the right to be informed of the grounds of arrest, the right to counsel, and the right to be produced before a magistrate within 48 hours of arrest. These rights do not apply to enemy aliens or to persons arrested for contempt of Parliament. The Constitution also specifically exempts the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act (Cap. 67, 2000 Rev. Ed.), the Internal Security Act (Cap. 143, 1985 Rev. Ed.), and Part IV of the Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap. 185, 2008 Rev. Ed.) from having to comply with Article 9. (more...)
Did you know...
- ... that Dutch physician Aletta Jacobs′ legal challenge to be added to the Amsterdam electoral rolls backfired, leading to a constitutional amendment granting voting rights only to men?
- ... that when Henry McCardie was a barrister, he often worked so late that his chambers were nicknamed "the lighthouse", as there was light coming from the windows?
- ... that the diaries of James Humphreys, the "Emperor of Porn", were used to convict 13 policemen of accepting his bribes?
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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.
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For examples of noted cases, see Lists of case law. Following is one example of such a noted case:
Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in which the Court ruled that the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prevents prosecutors from using a person's statements made in response to interrogation in police custody as evidence at their trial unless they can show that the person was informed of the right to consult with an attorney before and during questioning, and of the right against self-incrimination before police questioning, and that the defendant not only understood these rights, but voluntarily waived them.
Miranda was viewed by many as a radical change in American criminal law, since the Fifth Amendment was traditionally understood only to protect Americans against formal types of compulsion to confess, such as threats of contempt of court. It has had a significant impact on law enforcement in the United States, by making what became known as the Miranda warning part of routine police procedure to ensure that suspects were informed of their rights. The Supreme Court decided Miranda with three other consolidated cases: Westover v. United States, Vignera v. New York, and California v. Stewart.
The Miranda warning (often shortened to "Miranda", or "Mirandizing" a suspect) is the name of the formal warning that is required to be given by law enforcement in the United States to criminal suspects in police custody (or in a custodial situation) before they are interrogated, in accordance with the Miranda ruling. The purpose of such is to ensure the accused are aware of, and reminded of, these rights before questioning or actions that are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response. (more...)