Portal:Law

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The Law Portal

Lady Justice, often used as a personification of the law, holding a sword in one scales in the other.

Law is a system of rules created and enforced through 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 countries, 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 make binding case law through precedent, although on occasion this may be overturned by a higher court or the legislature. Historically, religious law influenced secular matters, and is still used 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.

Law's scope 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.

Law provides a source of scholarly inquiry into legal history, philosophy, economic analysis and sociology. Law also raises important and complex issues concerning equality, fairness, and justice. (Full article...)

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Black and white depiction of a symbol

A Quistclose trust is a trust created where a creditor has lent money to a debtor for a particular purpose. In the event that the debtor uses the money for any other purpose, it is held on trust for the creditor. Any inappropriately spent money can then be traced, and returned to the creditors. The name and trust comes from the House of Lords decision in Barclays Bank Ltd v Quistclose Investments Ltd (1970), although the underlying principles can be traced back further. There has been much academic debate over the classification of Quistclose trusts in existing trusts law: whether they are resulting trusts, express trusts, constructive trusts or, as Lord Millett said in Twinsectra Ltd v Yardley, illusory trusts. (Full article...) (more...)

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Charles Abbott, 1st Baron Tenterden PC SL (7 October 1762 – 4 November 1832), was a British barrister and judge who served as Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench between 1818 and 1832. Born in obscure circumstances to a barber and his wife in Canterbury, Abbott was educated initially at a dame school before moving to The King's School, Canterbury in 1769. He was noted as an excellent student, receiving an exhibition scholarship from the school in March 1781, when he matriculated at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. Here he was elected a fellow, and also served as a tutor to the son of Sir Francis Buller, which first made him consider becoming a barrister. He joined the Middle Temple in 1787, transferring to the Inner Temple in 1793, and was called to the Bar by the Inner Temple in 1796. Abbott was noted as an excellent barrister, earning more than any other during his time at the Bar, despite being considered unimaginitive and a poor speaker. He was offered a position as a Justice of the Court of Common Pleas in 1808, which he turned down; he accepted the same offer in 1816, receiving the customary knighthood and being appointed a Serjeant-at-Law.

Three months after he started sitting as a judge he was transferred to the Court of King's Bench, where he was initially rather poor, being unfamiliar with the court's business. Within two years he showed "the highest judicial excellence", and when Lord Ellenborough had a stroke in 1818, Abbott was chosen to replace him as Lord Chief Justice. His reign at the head of the Court of King's Bench saw the court flourish, with strong justices and his own much-admired abilities. He was appointed to the peerage in 1827, sitting as Charles Abbott, 1st Baron Tenterden, and initially attended the House of Lords regularly. His opposition to the Reform Act 1832, which he claimed treated city corporations "with absolute contempt", led to his refusal to attend the Lords. Continuing to sit as Lord Chief Justice, Abbott gradually grew weaker, and finally fell ill halfway through a two-day trial. His disease baffled doctors, and he would die on 4 November 1832 at his home in Queen Square, London. (Full article...) (more...)

What is a 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...) Learn more about statutes...

Following is an example of a noted statute or comparable written law:


The illustration depicts Edward II, seated on a throne and with a sceptre in his left hand, receiving his crown. His left hand is raised to the crown already on his head.

The Ordinances of 1311 were a series of regulations imposed upon King Edward II by the peerage and clergy of the Kingdom of England to restrict the power of the king.[a] The twenty-one signatories of the Ordinances are referred to as the Lords Ordainers, or simply the Ordainers.[b] English setbacks in the Scottish war, combined with perceived extortionate royal fiscal policies, set the background for the writing of the Ordinances in which the administrative prerogatives of the king were largely appropriated by a baronial council. The Ordinances reflect the Provisions of Oxford and the Provisions of Westminster from the late 1250s, but unlike the Provisions, the Ordinances featured a new concern with fiscal reform, specifically redirecting revenues from the king's household to the exchequer.

Just as instrumental to their conception were other issues, particularly discontent with the king's favourite, Piers Gaveston, whom the barons subsequently banished from the realm. Edward II accepted the Ordinances only under coercion, and a long struggle for their repeal ensued that did not end until Earl Thomas of Lancaster, the leader of the Ordainers, was executed in 1322. (Full article...) (more...)


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What is case law?

Case law is the collection of past legal decisions written by courts and similar tribunals in the course of deciding cases, in which the law was analyzed using these cases to resolve ambiguities for deciding current cases. 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. These judicial interpretations are distinguished from statutory law, which are codes enacted by legislative bodies, and regulatory law, which are established by executive agencies based on statutes. In some jurisdictions, case law can be applied to ongoing adjudication; for example, criminal proceedings or family law.

In common law countries (including the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand), the term case law is a near-exact synonym for common law. It is used for judicial decisions of selected appellate courts, courts of first instance, agency tribunals, and other bodies discharging adjudicatory functions. (Full article...)

Learn more about case law...

For examples of noted cases, see Lists of case law. Following is one example of such a noted 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.

On appeal, this decision was upheld in part by the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal found that the plaintiffs (appellants) had locus standi to bring the action as they were members of a Buddhist association, for whose benefit the temple property was held by its trustees. In addition, the Court found that the plaintiffs had not been guilty of inordinate delay in commencing the suit. However, the Court agreed with the trial judge that the Collector had not acted in violation of Article 12(1). In determining this issue, the Court held that the test to be applied is "whether there is a reasonable nexus between the state action taken and the object of the law". Such a nexus will be absent if the action amounts to "intentional and arbitrary discrimination" or intentional systematic discrimination. It is insufficient if any inequality is due to "inadvertence or inefficiency", unless this occurs on a very substantial scale. In addition, inequalities arising from a reasonable administrative policy or which are mere errors of judgment are insufficient to constitute a violation of Article 12(1). (Full article...) (more...)


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