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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…)

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A horde of soldiers, carrying pikes and waving flags, march around the high walls of Antioch. Inside can be seen many small houses and, in the centre, a cathedral.

The Treaty of Devol was an agreement made in 1108 between Bohemond I of Antioch and Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos, in the wake of the First Crusade. It is named after the Byzantine fortress of Devol in Macedonia (in modern Albania). Although the treaty was not immediately enforced, it was intended to make the Principality of Antioch a vassal state of the Byzantine Empire.

Under the terms of the Treaty, Bohemond agreed to become a vassal of the Emperor and to defend the Empire whenever needed. He also accepted the appointment of a Greek Patriarch. In return, he was given the titles of sebastos and doux (duke) of Antioch, and he was guaranteed the right to pass on to his heirs the County of Edessa. Following this, Bohemond retreated to Apulia and died there. His nephew, Tancred, who was regent in Antioch, refused to accept the terms of the Treaty. Antioch came temporarily under Byzantine sway in 1137, but it was not until 1158 that it truly became a Byzantine vassal. (more...)

Selected biography

Alfred Denning, Baron Denning (1899–1999) was a British soldier, mathematician, lawyer and judge. He studied at Magdalen College, Oxford, although his studies were disrupted by his service in the First World War. He then began his legal career, distinguishing himself as a barrister and becoming a King's Counsel in 1938. He became a judge in 1944 with an appointment to the Family Division of the High Court of Justice and was made a Lord Justice of Appeal in 1948 after fewer than five years in the High Court. He became a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary in 1957 and after five years in the House of Lords returned to the Court of Appeal as Master of the Rolls in 1962, a position he held for twenty years. One of the most publicly known judges thanks to his report on the Profumo Affair, Lord Denning was held in high regard by much of the judiciary, the Bar and the public. In retirement he wrote several books and continued to offer opinions on the state of the common law through his writing and his position in the House of Lords. During his 38 year career as a judge he made large changes to the common law, particularly while in the Court of Appeal. (more...)

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A seated barrister
Image by unknown photographer; uploaded by Cliniic
Jawaharlal Nehru at the Allahabad High Court

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A photograph of a group of people holding placards with "saveROE.com" on them

Roe v. Wade was the landmark 1973 United States Supreme Court decision that recognized abortion as a constitutional right, overturning several state laws against abortion. It remains one of the most controversial decisions in Supreme Court history. The decision in Roe v. Wade has sparked a decades-long national debate over when abortion should be legal; the role of the Supreme Court in constitutional adjudication; and the role of religious views in the political sphere. Roe v. Wade became one of the most politically significant Supreme Court decisions in history, reshaping national politics, dividing the nation into "pro-choice" and "pro-life" camps, and inspiring grassroots activism. Roe sparked widespread opposition, from those who viewed the Court's decision as illegitimate for straying too far from the text and history of the Constitution, as well as from those motivated by religious and moral beliefs about the inviolability of fetal life. It also attracted widespread support, from those who view the decision as necessary to achieve women's equality and personal freedom. (more...)

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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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