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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 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 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. Private law deals with legal disputes between individuals and/or organisations 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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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.

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George Morison Robertson (February 26, 1821 – March 12, 1867) was an early politician and judge in the Kingdom of Hawaii. Born in Scotland, he settled in Hawaii in 1844 during the whaling era. During his career in Hawaii, he served in many political and judicial posts including circuit judge and police court judge, member of the Board of Commissioners to Quiet Land Titles, a multiple-term representative in the Hawaiian legislature, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Hawaii and Minister of the Interior. (Full article...)

Selected statute

A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislative authority that governs the legal entities of a city, state, or country by way of consent. Typically, statutes command or prohibit something, or declare policy. Statutes are rules made by legislative bodies; they are distinguished from case law or precedent, which is decided by courts, and regulations issued by government agencies. (Full article...)

The Defective Premises Act 1972 (c. 35) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that covers landlords' and builders' liability for poorly constructed and poorly maintained buildings, along with any injuries that may result. During the 19th century, the common law principle that a landlord could not be liable for letting a poorly maintained house was established, while a long-running principle was that, in practice, builders could not be sued for constructing defective buildings. The courts began to turn against the first principle during the 20th century, imposing several restrictions on the landlord's immunity, but the landlord was still largely free from being sued.

The Defective Premises Bill was introduced to the House of Commons as a private member's bill by Ivor Richard on 1 December 1971, and given the Royal Assent on 29 June 1972, coming into force as the Defective Premises Act 1972 on 1 January 1974. The Act establishes a duty of care builders and their sub-contractors owe to the occupiers of property they construct or modify, and also establishes a duty of care landlords hold towards their tenants and any third parties who might be injured by their failure to maintain or repair property. The Act received a mixed reaction from critics; while some complimented it on its simple nature compared to the previously complex common rule laws, others felt that it was too limited for what was desired to be achieved, and that the wording used was at times both too vague and too specific. (Full article...)

Did you know...

Red dresses representing missing and murdered Indigenous women.

  • ... that after the death of Olaseni Lewis, who was restrained by 11 police officers, UK law was changed to require police to wear body cameras when dealing with vulnerable people?

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

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Thomas Bonham v College of Physicians, commonly known as Dr. Bonham's Case or simply Bonham's Case, was a case decided in 1610 by the Court of Common Pleas in England, under Sir Edward Coke, the court's Chief Justice, in which it was ruled that Dr. Bonham had been wrongfully imprisoned by the College of Physicians for practising medicine without a licence. The case is notable because Coke argued in the decision's rationale that "in many cases, the common law will control Acts of Parliament", the act of parliament in question being the "College of Physicians Act 1553" which gave the college the right to imprison. The meaning of this phrase has been disputed over the years. According to one interpretation, Coke intended the kind of judicial review that would later develop in the United States, but other scholars believe that Coke meant only to construe a statute, not to challenge parliamentary sovereignty. If Coke intended the former, he may have later changed his view. The statement by Coke is sometimes considered to be an obiter dictum (a statement made 'by the way'), rather than part of the ratio decidendi (rationale for the decision) of the case. Dr. Bonham's attorneys had argued that imprisonment was reserved for malpractice not illicit practice, with Coke agreeing in the majority opinion.

After an initial period during which Coke's controversial view enjoyed some support but no statutes were declared void, Bonham's Case was thrown aside as a precedent, in favour of the growing doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty. William Blackstone, one of the most prominent supporters of the doctrine, argued that Parliament is the sovereign lawmaker, preventing the common law courts from throwing aside or reviewing statutes in the fashion that Coke had suggested. Parliamentary sovereignty is now the accepted judicial doctrine in the legal system of England and Wales.

Bonham's Case was met with mixed reactions at the time, with King James I and his Lord Chancellor, Lord Ellesmere, both deeply unhappy with it. In 1613 Coke was removed from the Common Pleas and sent to the King's Bench. He was suspended from duties in 1616 and in October 1617 James I demanded an explanation from Coke for this case, with Coke affirming the validity of his reasoning. Academics in the 19th and the 20th centuries have been scarcely more favourable and called it "a foolish doctrine alleged to have been laid down extra-judicially" and simply an "abortion". In the United States, Coke's decision met with a better reaction. During the legal and public campaigns against the writs of assistance and the 1765 Stamp Act, Bonham's Case was used as a justification for nullifying the legislation, but by 1772, Blackstone's views had gained acceptance. The 1803 case Marbury v. Madison formed the basis for the exercise of judicial review in the United States, under Article III of the US Constitution, with the case having both parallels and important differences with Dr Bonham's case. Academics have used this connection to argue that Coke's views form the basis of judicial review in the United States, but there is no consensus on the issue. (Full article...)

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