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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 photograph of a group of people protesting

The doctrine of legitimate expectation in Singapore protects procedural rights, but it is not yet certain whether substantive rights are protected. In administrative law, a legitimate expectation generally arises when there has been a representation of a certain outcome by the public authorities to an individual. To derogate from the representation may amount to an abuse of power or unfairness. The doctrine of legitimate expectation as a ground to quash decisions of public authorities has been firmly established by the English courts. Thus, where a public authority has made a representation to an individual who would be affected by a decision by the authority, the individual has a legitimate expectation to have his or her views heard before the decision is taken. In addition, an individual may also have a legitimate expectation to a substantive right. The recognition of substantive legitimate expectations is somewhat controversial as it requires a balancing of the requirements of fairness against the reasons for any change in the authority's policy. This suggests the adoption of a free-standing proportionality approach, which has been said not to apply in administrative law. (more...)

Selected biography

A black and white photograph of Learned Hand

Learned Hand (1872–1961) was an influential United States judge and judicial philosopher. He served on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York and later on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Hand has reportedly been quoted more often than any other lower-court judge by legal scholars and by the Supreme Court of the United States. Born and raised in Albany, New York, Hand majored in philosophy at Harvard College and graduated with honors from Harvard Law School. After a short career as a lawyer in Albany and New York City, he was appointed as a Federal District Judge in Manhattan in 1909 at the age of 37. The profession suited his detached and open-minded temperament, and his decisions soon won him a reputation for craftsmanship and authority. He ran unsuccessfully as the Progressive Party's candidate for Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals in 1913, but withdrew from active politics shortly afterwards. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge promoted Hand to the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which he went on to lead as the Senior Circuit Judge (later retitled Chief Judge) from 1939 until his semi-retirement in 1951. Friends and admirers often lobbied for Hand's promotion to the Supreme Court, but circumstances and his political past conspired against his appointment. Hand possessed a gift for language, and his writings are admired as legal literature. (more...)

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?
  • ... DYK5
  • ... DYK6
  • ... DYK7
  • ... DYK8

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Selected case

A modern photograph to the entrance to Jin Long Si Temple

Eng Foong Ho v. Attorney-General is the name of two cases of the Singapore courts, a High Court decision delivered in 2008 and the 2009 judgment by the Court of Appeal. The main issue raised by the case was whether the Collector of Land Revenue had treated the plaintiffs (later appellants), who were devotees of the Jin Long Si Temple, unequally by compulsorily acquiring for public purposes the land on which the temple stood but not the lands of a Hindu mission and a Christian church nearby. It was alleged that the authorities had acted in violation of Article 12(1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore, which guarantees the rights to equality before the law and equal protection of the law.

The High Court held that the plaintiffs lacked locus standi to bring the action as they were not the temple's legal owners. In any case, as there was evidence that the authorities had rational reasons for treating the temple property differently from the property of the Mission and the Church, the High Court found that there had been no breach of Article 12(1). Furthermore, the Court determined that the plaintiffs were guilty of inordinate delay in bringing the action. (more...)

Selected statute

A scan of an old document

The Petition of Right is a major English constitutional document that sets out specific liberties of the subject that the king is prohibited from infringing. Passed on 7 June 1628, the Petition contains restrictions on non-Parliamentary taxation, forced billeting of soldiers, imprisonment without cause, and restricts the use of martial law. Following disputes between Parliament and King Charles I over the execution of the Thirty Years' War, Parliament refused to grant subsidies to support the war effort, leading to Charles gathering "forced loans" without Parliamentary approval and arbitrarily imprisoning those who refused to pay. Moreover, the war footing of the nation led to the forced billeting of soldiers within the homes of private citizens, and the declaration of martial law over large swathes of the country.

In response, the House of Commons prepared a set of four Resolutions, decrying these actions and restating the validity of Magna Carta and the legal requirement of habeas corpus. A committee under Sir Edward Coke drafted the Petition of Right, which was ratified by both Houses of Parliament on the 26th and 27th of May. The Petition was accepted by the King on 2 June and full ratified on 7 June. (more...)

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