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Law is a system of rules, usually enforced through a set of institutions. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a primary social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus ticket to trading on derivatives markets. Property law defines rights and obligations related to the transfer and title of personal (often referred to as chattel) and real property. Trust law applies to assets held for investment and financial security, while tort law allows claims for compensation if a person's rights or property are harmed. If the harm is criminalised in a statute, criminal law offers means by which the state can prosecute the perpetrator. Constitutional law provides a framework for the creation of law, the protection of human rights and the election of political representatives. Administrative law is used to review the decisions of government agencies, while international law governs affairs between sovereign states in activities ranging from trade to environmental regulation or military action. Writing in 350 BC, the Greek philosopher Aristotle declared: "The rule of law is better than the rule of any individual."

Legal systems elaborate rights and responsibilities in a variety of ways. A general distinction can be made between civil law jurisdictions, which codify their laws, and common law systems, where judge made law is not consolidated. In some countries, religion informs the law. Law provides a rich source of scholarly inquiry, into legal history, philosophy, economic analysis or sociology. Law also raises important and complex issues concerning equality, fairness and justice. "In its majestic equality", said the author Anatole France in 1894, "the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread." In a typical democracy, the central institutions for interpreting and creating law are the three main branches of government, namely an impartial judiciary, a democratic legislature, and an accountable executive. To implement and enforce the law and provide services to the public, a government's bureaucracy, the military and police are vital. While all these organs of the state are creatures created and bound by law, an independent legal profession and a vibrant civil society inform and support their progress. (More…)

Selected article

A Medieval drawing of ploughing with oxen

Carucage (/ˈkærəkɪ/; Medieval Latin: carrūcāgium, from carrūca, "wheeled plough") was a medieval English land tax introduced by King Richard I in 1194, based on the size—variously calculated—of the estate owned by the taxpayer. It was a replacement for the danegeld, last imposed in 1162, which had become difficult to collect because of an increasing number of exemptions. Carucage was levied just six times: by Richard in 1194 and 1198; John, his brother and successor, in 1200; and John's son, Henry III, in 1217, 1220, and 1224, after which it was replaced by taxes on income and personal property.

The taxable value of an estate was initially assessed from the Domesday Survey, but other methods were later employed, such as valuations based on the sworn testimony of neighbours or on the number of plough-teams the taxpayer used. Carucage never raised as much as other taxes, but nevertheless helped to fund several projects. It paid the ransom for Richard's release in 1194, after he was taken prisoner by Leopold V, Duke of Austria; it covered the tax John had to pay Philip II of France in 1200 on land he inherited in that country; and it helped to finance Henry III's military campaigns in England and on continental Europe. (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 picture

Eight men seated in two rows with a line of guards behind them
Photograph taken by the US Government and modified by Beao
The defendants sitting in the dock during the Nuremberg Trials.

Selected case

Public Prosecutor v. Taw Cheng Kong is a landmark case decided in 1998 by the Court of Appeal of Singapore which shaped the landscape of Singapore's constitutional law. The earlier High Court decision, Taw Cheng Kong v. Public Prosecutor, was the first instance in Singapore's history that a statutory provision was struck down as unconstitutional. The matter subsequently reached the Court of Appeal when the Public Prosecutor applied for a criminal reference for two questions to be considered. The questions were:

  1. whether section 37(1) of the Prevention of Corruption Act (Cap. 241, 1993 Rev. Ed.) ("PCA") was ultra vires the powers of the legislature on the ground that the legislature had, under section 6(3) of the Republic of Singapore Independence Act 1965 (No. 9 of 1965, 1985 Rev. Ed.), been divested of the power to legislate extraterritorially; and
  2. whether section 37(1) of the PCA was discriminatory against Singapore citizens and hence inconsistent with Article 12(1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (1992 Reprint) (now the Singapore Constitution (1999 Reprint)). (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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