Portal:Law

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Lady Justice, often used as a personification of the law, holding a sword in one hand and scales in the other.

Law is a set 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 as 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 also serves as a mediator of relations between people.

Legal systems vary between jurisdictions, 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 may make binding case law through precedent, although on occasion this may be overturned by a higher court or the legislature. Historically, religious law has influenced secular matters and is, as of the 21st century, still in use 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.

The scope of law can be divided into two domains: public law concerns government and society, including constitutional law, administrative law, and criminal law; while private law deals with legal disputes between parties 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...)

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A large stone building with 12 glazed arched windows at first floor level above six stone arches

The modern system of county courts in England and Wales was established by the County Courts Act 1846. The Act created 491 courts on 60 circuits; of these, 53 courts were in Wales and Monmouthshire (a Welsh county that had ambiguous status at the time and was sometimes treated as being in England). Since then, new courts have been opened in various locations, and 80 towns and cities in Wales have, or have had, county courts. As of 2012, there are 20 county courts in Wales. The courts in the other 60 locations have closed. Reasons for closure have included a decision that it was "inexpedient" to continue to provide a court, the volume of business no longer justifying a court, or the state of the building housing the court. The first closure was Fishguard, in 1856; the most recent closures are the county courts in Aberdare and Pontypool, which closed on 1 August 2011.

Selected biography

Assata Olugbala Shakur (born JoAnne Deborah Byron; July 16, 1947), also known as Joanne Chesimard, is an American political activist and convicted murderer who was a member of the Black Liberation Army (BLA). In 1977, she was convicted in the first-degree murder of State Trooper Werner Foerster during a shootout on the New Jersey Turnpike in 1973. She escaped from prison in 1979 and is currently wanted by the FBI, with a $1 million FBI reward for information leading to her capture, and an additional $1 million reward offered by the Attorney General of New Jersey.

Born in Flushing, Queens, she grew up in New York City and Wilmington, North Carolina. After she ran away from home several times, her aunt, who would later act as one of her lawyers, took her in. She became involved in political activism at Borough of Manhattan Community College and City College of New York. After graduation, she began using the name Assata Shakur, and briefly joined the Black Panther Party. She then joined the BLA, a loosely knit offshoot of the Black Panthers, which engaged in an armed struggle against the US government through tactics including robbing banks and killing police officers and drug dealers.

Between 1971 and 1973, she was charged with several crimes and was the subject of a multi-state manhunt. In May 1973, Shakur was arrested after being wounded in a shootout on the New Jersey Turnpike. Also involved in the shootout were New Jersey State Troopers Werner Foerster and James Harper and BLA members Sundiata Acoli and Zayd Malik Shakur. State Trooper Harper was wounded; Zayd Shakur was killed; State Trooper Foerster was killed. Between 1973 and 1977, Shakur was charged with murder, attempted murder, armed robbery, bank robbery, and kidnapping in relation to the shootout and six other incidents. She was acquitted on three of the charges and three were dismissed. In 1977, she was convicted of the murder of State Trooper Foerster and of seven other felonies related to the 1973 shootout. Her defense had argued medical evidence suggested her innocence since her arm was damaged in the shootout.

While serving a life sentence for murder, Shakur escaped in 1979, with assistance from the BLA and members of the May 19 Communist Organization, from the Clinton Correctional Facility for Women in Union Township, NJ, now the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women. She surfaced in Cuba in 1984, where she was granted political asylum. Shakur has lived in Cuba since, despite US government efforts to have her returned. She has been on the FBI Most Wanted Terrorists list since 2013 as Joanne Deborah Chesimard and was the first woman to be added to this list. (Full article...)

Selected statute

A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislative body, a stage in the process of legislation. Typically, statutes command or prohibit something, or declare policy. Statutes are laws made by legislative bodies; they are distinguished from case law or precedent, which is decided by courts, regulations issued by government agencies, and oral or customary law.[better source needed] Statutes may originate with the legislative body of a country, state or province, county, or municipality. (Full article...)


A large gleaming white truck faces diagonally right towards the camera.

Hours of service (HOS) regulations are issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and govern the working hours of anyone operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in the United States. These regulations apply to truck drivers, commercial and intercity bus drivers, and school bus drivers who operate CMVs. These rules limit the number of daily and weekly hours spent driving and working, and regulate the minimum amount of time drivers must spend resting between driving shifts. For intrastate commerce, the respective state's regulations apply.

The HOS's main purpose is to prevent accidents caused by driver fatigue. This is accomplished by limiting the number of driving hours per day, and the number of driving and working hours per week. Fatigue is also prevented by keeping drivers on a 21- to 24-hour schedule, maintaining a natural sleep/wake cycle (or circadian rhythm). Drivers are required to take a daily minimum period of rest, and are allowed longer "weekend" rest periods to combat cumulative fatigue effects that accrue on a weekly basis. (Full article...)

Did you know...

  • ... that, in the cases of Klayman v. Obama and ACLU v. Clapper, US district courts issued conflicting rulings on the constitutionality of bulk data collection by the US government?
  • ... that in 2011, Nitehawk Cinema successfully lobbied to overturn a Prohibition-era liquor law that prevented movie theaters in New York from serving alcohol?

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Selected case

Case law, also used interchangeably with common law, is a 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 legal 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...)


A map of the Phelps and Gorham purchase

Seneca Nation of Indians v. Christy, 162 U.S. 283 (1896), was the first litigation of aboriginal title in the United States by a tribal plaintiff in the Supreme Court of the United States since Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831). It was the first such litigation by an indigenous plaintiff since Fellows v. Blacksmith (1857) and its companion case of New York ex rel. Cutler v. Dibble (1858). The New York courts held that the 1788 Phelps and Gorham Purchase did not violate the Nonintercourse Act, one of the provisions of which prohibits purchases of Indian lands without the approval of the federal government, and that (even if it did) the Seneca Nation of New York was barred by the state statute of limitations from challenging the transfer of title. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the merits of lower court ruling because of the adequate and independent state grounds doctrine.

According to O'Toole and Tureen, "Christy is an important case in that it revived the concept that states had special powers to deal with Indian tribes within their borders."

Although the case has not been formally overruled, two Supreme Court decisions in the 1970s and 1980s have undone its effect by ruling that there is federal subject-matter jurisdiction for a federal common law cause of action for recovering possession based on the common-law doctrine of aboriginal title. Moreover, the New York courts' interpretation of the Nonintercourse Act is no longer good law. Modern federal courts hold that only Congress can ratify a conveyance of aboriginal title, and only with a clear statement, rather than implicitly. (Full article...)

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