Portal:Law

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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 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

Assata Olugbala Shakur (born July 16, 1947, as JoAnne Deborah Byron, married name Chesimard) is an African-American activist and escaped convict who was a member of the Black Panther Party (BPP) and Black Liberation Army (BLA). Between 1971 and 1973, Shakur was accused of several crimes and made the subject of a multi-state manhunt.

In May 1973 Shakur was involved in a shootout on the New Jersey Turnpike, during which New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster and BLA member Zayd Malik Shakur were killed and Shakur and Trooper James Harper were wounded. Between 1973 and 1977, Shakur was indicted in relation to six other alleged criminal incidents—charged with murder, attempted murder, armed robbery, bank robbery, and kidnapping—resulting in three acquittals and three dismissals. In 1977, she was convicted of the first-degree murder of Foerster and of seven other felonies related to the shootout.

Shakur was then incarcerated in several prisons, where her treatment drew criticism from some human rights groups. She escaped from prison in 1979 and has been living in Cuba in political asylum since 1984. Since May 2, 2005, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has classified her as a "domestic terrorist" and offered a $1 million reward for assistance in her capture. Attempts to extradite her have resulted in letters to the Pope and a Congressional resolution. (more...)

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Selected case

Dietrich v The Queen was an important case decided in the High Court of Australia on 13 November 1992. It concerned the nature of the right to a fair trial, and under what circumstances defendants who cannot afford legal representation should be provided with legal aid by the state. Dietrich had entered Australia from Thailand with at least seventy grams of heroin concealed in condoms that he had swallowed. Australian Federal Police arrested him and searched his flat, finding one of the condoms and some heroin; Dietrich alleged that the drugs had been planted by the police. He was tried in the County Court of Victoria, but had no legal representation during the lengthy trial: the Legal Aid Commission of Victoria refused assistance unless he agreed to plead guilty. Dietrich was acquitted of one of the lesser charges, but convicted of the principal charge. The High Court of Australia decided that although there is no absolute right to have publicly funded counsel, in most circumstances a judge should grant any request for an adjournment or stay when an accused is unrepresented. It is an important case in Australian criminal law, and also in Australian constitutional law, since it is one of a number of cases in which some members of the High Court have found implied human rights in the Australian Constitution. (more...)

Selected statute

A Lithuanian page signed by twenty people

The Act of Independence of Lithuania was signed by the Council of Lithuania on February 16, 1918, proclaiming the restoration of an independent State of Lithuania, governed by democratic principles, with Vilnius as its capital. The Act was signed by all twenty representatives, chaired by Jonas Basanavičius.

After the Germans, who were in control of Lithuania, lost World War I in the fall of 1918, the first Cabinet of Lithuania was formed, and the Council of Lithuania gained control over the territory of Lithuania using the Act. Independent Lithuania, although it would soon be battling the Wars of Independence, became a reality.

The laconic Act is the legal basis for the existence of modern Lithuania, both during the interwar period and since 1990. The Act formulated the basic constitutional principles that were and still are followed by all Constitutions of Lithuania. The Act itself was a key element in the foundation of Lithuania's re-establishment of independence in 1990, being used as evidence that Lithuania was simply re-establishing the independent state that existed between the world wars. (more...)

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