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 crowd of people, some waving rainbow flags or holding placards

Same-sex marriage in Spain has been legal since July 3, 2005. In 2004, the newly elected Socialist government, led by José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, began a campaign for its legalization. After much debate, a law permitting same-sex marriage was passed by the Cortes Generales (Spain's bicameral parliament, composed of the Senate and the Congress of Deputies) on 30 June 2005 and published on 2 July 2005. Same-sex marriage became legal in Spain on Sunday, 3 July 2005, making it the third country in the world to do so, after the Netherlands and Belgium and 17 days ahead of Canada. The ratification of this law was not devoid of conflict, despite support from 66% of the population. Roman Catholic authorities in particular were adamantly opposed, criticising what they regarded as the weakening of the meaning of marriage. Other associations expressed concern about lesbians and gays adopting children. After its approval, the People's Party challenged the law in the Constitutional Court. Approximately 4,500 same-sex couples married in Spain during the first year of the law. At least one partner must be a Spanish citizen in order to marry, although two non-Spaniards may marry if they both have legal residence in Spain. (more...)

Selected biography

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

The Jena Six were six black teenagers convicted in the beating of Justin Barker, a white student at Jena High School in Jena, Louisiana, on December 4, 2006. Barker was injured in the assault by the members of the Jena Six, and received treatment for his injuries at an emergency room. While the case was pending, it was often cited as an example of racial injustice in the United States, due to a belief that the defendants had initially been charged with too-serious offenses and had been treated unfairly.

A number of events took place in and around Jena in the months preceding the Barker assault which have been linked to an alleged escalation of racial tensions. These events included the hanging of 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. The incidents were often linked in the extensive news coverage regarding the Jena Six. (more...)

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Selected case

Dietrich v The Queen was an important case decided in the High Court of Australia on 13 November 1992. It concerned the nature of the right to a fair trial, and under what circumstances defendants who cannot afford legal representation should be provided with legal aid by the state. Dietrich had entered Australia from Thailand with at least seventy grams of heroin concealed in condoms that he had swallowed. Australian Federal Police arrested him and searched his flat, finding one of the condoms and some heroin; Dietrich alleged that the drugs had been planted by the police. He was tried in the County Court of Victoria, but had no legal representation during the lengthy trial: the Legal Aid Commission of Victoria refused assistance unless he agreed to plead guilty. Dietrich was acquitted of one of the lesser charges, but convicted of the principal charge. The High Court of Australia decided that although there is no absolute right to have publicly funded counsel, in most circumstances a judge should grant any request for an adjournment or stay when an accused is unrepresented. It is an important case in Australian criminal law, and also in Australian constitutional law, since it is one of a number of cases in which some members of the High Court have found implied human rights in the Australian Constitution. (more...)

Selected statute

The first page of the Accurate News and Information Act

The Accurate News and Information Act was a statute passed by the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, Canada, in 1937, at the instigation of William Aberhart's Social Credit government. Aberhart and the Social Credit League had been in a stormy relationship with the press since before the 1935 election, in which they were elected to government. Virtually all of Alberta's newspapers--especially the Calgary Herald--were critical of Social Credit, as were a number of publications from elsewhere in Canada. Even the American media had greeted Aberhart's election with derision. The act would have required newspapers to print "clarifications" of stories that a committee of Social Credit legislators deemed inaccurate. It would also have required them to reveal their sources on demand. Though the act won easy passage through the Social Credit-dominated legislature, Lieutenant-Governor of Alberta John C. Bowen reserved royal assent until the Supreme Court of Canada evaluated the act's legality. In 1938's Reference re Alberta Statutes, the court found that it was unconstitutional, and it was never signed into law. (more...)

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  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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