Portal:Law

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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 that are created and are enforceable by 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. (Full article...)

Selected article

The CSI effect is any of several ways in which the exaggerated portrayal of forensic science on crime television shows such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation influences public perception. The term most often refers to the belief that jurors have come to demand more forensic evidence in criminal trials, thereby raising the effective standard of proof for prosecutors. While this belief is widely held among American legal professionals, some studies have suggested that crime shows are unlikely to cause such an effect, although frequent CSI viewers may place a lower value on circumstantial evidence. As technology improves and becomes more prevalent throughout society, people may also develop higher expectations for the capabilities of forensic technology.

There are several other manifestations of the CSI effect. Greater public awareness of forensic science has also increased the demand for forensic evidence in police investigations, inflating workloads for crime laboratories. The number and popularity of forensic science programs at the university level have greatly increased worldwide, though some new programs have been criticized for inadequately preparing their students for real forensic work. It is possible that forensic science shows teach criminals how to conceal evidence of their crimes, thereby making it more difficult for investigators to solve cases.

Selected biography

Painting of Cesare Beccaria

Cesare Bonesana di Beccaria, Marquis of Gualdrasco and Villareggio (Italian: [ˈtʃeːzare bekkaˈriːa, ˈtʃɛː-]; 15 March 1738 – 28 November 1794) was an Italian criminologist, jurist, philosopher, economist and politician, who is widely considered one of the greatest thinkers of the Age of Enlightenment. He is well remembered for his treatise On Crimes and Punishments (1764), which condemned torture and the death penalty, and was a founding work in the field of penology and the Classical School of criminology. Beccaria is considered the father of modern criminal law and the father of criminal justice.

According to John Bessler, Beccaria's works had a profound influence on the Founding Fathers of the United States. (Full article...)

Selected 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...)


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The English Poor Laws were a system of poor relief in England and Wales that developed out of the codification of late-medieval and Tudor-era laws in 1587–1598. The system continued until the modern welfare state emerged after the Second World War.

English Poor Law legislation can be traced back as far as 1536, when legislation was passed to deal with the impotent poor, although there were much earlier Tudor laws dealing with the problems caused by vagrants and beggars. The history of the Poor Law in England and Wales is usually divided between two statutes: the Old Poor Law passed during the reign of Elizabeth I (1558–1603) and the New Poor Law, passed in 1834, which significantly modified the system of poor relief. The New Poor Law altered the system from one which was administered haphazardly at a local parish level to a highly centralised system which encouraged the large-scale development of workhouses by poor law unions.[better source needed] (Full article...)

Did you know...

Photographs of a woman standing at a podium and gesturing.

  • ... 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?

Selected images

Selected case

Case law, also used interchangeably with common law, is law that is based on precedents, that is the judicial decisions from previous cases, rather than law based on constitutions, statutes, or regulations. Case law uses the detailed facts of a case that have been resolved by courts or similar tribunals. 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, drawing on established judicial authority to formulate their positions. (Full article...)


Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in which the court ruled that U.S. state laws establishing racial segregation in public schools are unconstitutional, even if the segregated schools are otherwise equal in quality. The court's decision partially overruled its 1896 decision Plessy v. Ferguson, declaring that the "separate but equal" notion was unconstitutional for American public schools and educational facilities. It paved the way for integration and was a major victory of the civil rights movement, and a model for many future impact litigation cases.

The underlying case began in 1951 when the public school system in Topeka, Kansas, refused to enroll local black resident Oliver Brown's daughter at the elementary school closest to their home, instead requiring her to ride a bus to a segregated black school farther away. The Browns and twelve other local black families in similar situations filed a class-action lawsuit in U.S. federal court against the Topeka Board of Education, alleging that its segregation policy was unconstitutional. A three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas rendered a verdict against the Browns, relying on the precedent of Plessy v. Ferguson, in which the Supreme Court had ruled that racial segregation was not in itself a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause if the facilities in question were otherwise equal, a doctrine that had come to be known as "separate but equal". The Browns, then represented by NAACP chief counsel Thurgood Marshall, appealed the ruling directly to the Supreme Court. (Full article...)

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