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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 black and white photograph of Nikolai Krylenko

The Ministry of Justice of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), formed on 15 March 1946, was one of the most important government offices in the Soviet Union. It was formerly (until 1946) known as the People's Commissariat for Justice. The Ministry, at the All-Union (USSR-wide) level, was established on 6 July 1923, after the signing of the Treaty on the Creation of the USSR, and was in turn based upon the People's Commissariat for Justice of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) formed in 1917. The Ministry was led by the Minister of Justice, prior to 1946 a Commissar, who was nominated by the Chairman of the Council of Ministers and confirmed by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, and was a member of the Council of Ministers.

The Ministry of Justice was responsible for courts, prisons, and probations. Further responsibilities included criminal justice policy, sentencing policy, and prevention of re-offending in the USSR. The Ministry was organised into All-Union and Union departments. The All-Union level ministries were divided into separate organisations in the Republican, Autonomous Oblast, and provincial level. The leadership of the Ministry of Justice came from notable Soviet law organisations from around the country. (more...)

Selected biography

A photograph of Antonin Scalia

Antonin Scalia (born 1936) was an American jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. As the longest-serving justice on the Court, Scalia was the Senior Associate Justice. In 1982, he was appointed as a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit by President Ronald Reagan. In 1986, Judge Scalia was appointed by Reagan to the Supreme Court to fill the seat as associate justice vacated when Justice William Rehnquist was elevated to Chief Justice. While Rehnquist's confirmation was contentious, Scalia was asked few difficult questions by the Senate Judiciary Committee, and faced no opposition. Scalia was unanimously confirmed by the Senate, and took the bench on September 26, 1986. In his near quarter-century on the Court, Justice Scalia had staked out a conservative ideology in his opinions, advocating textualism in statutory interpretation and originalism in constitutional interpretation. He was a strong defender of the powers of the executive branch, believing presidential power should be paramount in many areas. He opposes affirmative action and other policies that treat minorities as groups. He filed separate opinions in large numbers of cases, and, in his minority opinions, often castigated the Court's majority in scathing language. (more...)

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Selected case

An illustration of two people fighting in a pen and surrounded by a large crowd

Ashford v Thornton (1818) 106 ER 149 is an English law case in the Court of King's Bench that upheld the right of the defendant, on a private appeal from an acquittal for murder, to trial by battle. In 1817, Abraham Thornton was charged with the murder of Mary Ashford. Thornton had met Ashford at a dance, and had walked with her from the event. The next morning, Ashford was found drowned in a pit, with little outward signs of violence. Although public opinion was heavily against Thornton, the jury quickly acquitted him, and also found him not guilty of rape.

Mary's brother, William Ashford, launched an appeal, and Thornton was rearrested. Thornton claimed the right to trial by battle, a medieval usage that had never been repealed by Parliament. Ashford argued that the evidence against Thornton was overwhelming, and that he was thus ineligible to wage battle.

The court decided that the evidence against Thornton was not overwhelming, and that trial by battle was a permissible option under law; thus Thornton was granted trial by battle. Ashford declined the offer of battle and Thornton was freed from custody. Appeals such as Ashford's were abolished by statute the following year, and with them the right to trial by battle. (more...)

Selected statute

A group of people holding placards in the middle of the road

House Bill 444 was a 2009 bill of the Hawaii State Legislature, passed in April 2010 and vetoed by Governor of Hawaii Linda Lingle, that would have legalized civil unions for couples in the state of Hawaii. Its legislative process was accompanied by controversy over the bill's content and effects and rallies were held by supporters and opponents.

The bill passed the Hawaii House of Representatives in February 2009 in a form specific to same-sex couples, was passed in amended form including opposite-sex couples by the Hawaii Senate in May 2009, and was carried over in the 2010 session, where it passed the Senate again in January 2010 with a veto-proof majority. The bill moved back to the House but was indefinitely postponed by a voice vote initiated by House Speaker Calvin Say, requiring a vote of two-thirds of Representatives to be taken up again in 2010, and was considered dead. In April 2010, on the last day of the legislative session, the House suspended the rules on the Senate bill and passed it with a majority, sending the bill to Governor Linda Lingle, who vetoed it in July 2010. (more...)

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