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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 Tudor man in a large coat and hat, possibly of fur, sitting at a desk

The Keeper or Master of the Rolls and Records of the Chancery of England, known as the Master of the Rolls, is the second most senior judge in England and Wales, after the Lord Chief Justice. The Master of the Rolls is the presiding officer of the Civil Division of the Court of Appeal. The first record of a Master of the Rolls is from 1286, although it is believed that the office probably existed earlier than that.

The Master of the Rolls was initially a clerk responsible for keeping the "Rolls", or records, of the Court of Chancery, and was known as the Keeper of the Rolls of Chancery. The Keeper was the most senior of the dozen Chancery clerks, and as such occasionally acted as keeper of the Great Seal of the Realm. The post evolved into a judicial one as the Court of Chancery did; the first reference to judicial duties dates from 1520. With the Judicature Act 1873, the Master transferred from the now-defunct Court of Chancery to the Court of Appeal. The Master still retained his clerical functions by serving as the nominal head of the Public Record Office (PRO) until 1958. However, the Public Records Act of that year transferred responsibility for the PRO from the Master of the Rolls to the Lord Chancellor. The Master of the Rolls is also responsible for registering solicitors, the officers of the Senior Courts. (more...)

Selected biography

Claud Schuster, 1st Baron Schuster, GCB, CVO, KC (22 August 1869 – 28 June 1956) was a British barrister and civil servant noted for his long tenure as Permanent Secretary to the Lord Chancellor's Office. Schuster studied history at New College, Oxford, after which he joined the Inner Temple with the aim of becoming a barrister; he was called to the Bar in 1895. Practising in Liverpool, Schuster was not noted as a particularly successful barrister, and he joined Her Majesty's Civil Service in 1899 as secretary to the Chief Commissioner of the Local Government Act Commission.

After serving as secretary to several more commissions, he was made Permanent Secretary to the Lord Chancellor's Office in 1915. Schuster served in this position for 29 years under ten different Lord Chancellors, and became "one of the most influential Permanent Secretaries of the 20th century". His influence led to criticism and suspicions that he was a "power behind the throne", which culminated in a verbal attack by the Lord Chief Justice Lord Hewart in 1934 during a session of the House of Lords. Schuster retired in 1944 and was made Baron Schuster. Despite being officially retired he continued to work in government circles, such as with the Allied Commission for Austria and by using his seat in the House of Lords as a way to directly criticise legislation. (more...)

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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

A filer warning of, among other things, "mental hygiene"

The Alaska Mental Health Enabling Act of 1956 was an Act of Congress passed to improve mental health care in the United States territory of Alaska. Introduced in the House of Representatives by Alaska Congressional Delegate Bob Bartlett in January 1956, it became the focus of a major political controversy. The legislation was opposed by a variety of far-right, anti-Communist and fringe religious groups, prompting what was said to have been the biggest political controversy seen on Capitol Hill since the early 1940s. Prominent opponents nicknamed it the "Siberia Bill" and asserted that it was part of an international Jewish, Roman Catholic or psychiatric conspiracy intended to establish United Nations-run concentration camps in the United States. With the sponsorship of the conservative Republican senator Barry Goldwater, a modified version of the Act was approved unanimously by the United States Senate in July 1956 after only ten minutes of debate. (more...)

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