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.

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The prison occupied two locations, the first c. 1329–1811, and the second 1811–1842. The image above is of the first Marshalsea in the 18th century.

The Marshalsea was a prison on the south bank of the River Thames in Southwark, now part of London. From the 14th century until it closed in 1842, it housed men under court martial for crimes at sea, including those accused of "unnatural crimes," political figures and intellectuals accused of sedition, and—most famously—London's debtors, the length of their stay determined largely by the whim of their creditors.

Run privately for profit, as were all prisons in England until the 19th century, the Marshalsea looked like an Oxbridge college and functioned as an extortion racket. For prisoners who could pay, it came with access to a bar, shop, and restaurant, as well as the crucial privilege of being allowed out during the day, which meant debtors could earn money to satisfy their creditors. Everyone else was crammed into one of nine small rooms with dozens of others, possibly for decades for the most modest of debts, which increased as unpaid prison fees accumulated. A parliamentary committee reported in 1729 that 300 inmates had starved to death within a three-month period, and that eight to ten prisoners were dying every 24 hours in the warmer weather. (more...)

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Mathew Charles "Matt" Lamb (5 January 1948 – 7 November 1976) was a Canadian spree killer who, in 1967, avoided Canada's then-mandatory death penalty for capital murder by being found not guilty by reason of insanity. Abandoned by his teenage mother soon after his birth in Windsor, Ontario, Lamb suffered an abusive upbringing at the hands of his step-grandfather, leading him to become emotionally detached from his relatives and peers. He developed violent tendencies, which manifested themselves in his physical assault of a police officer at the age of 16 and his engaging in a brief shoot-out with law enforcement ten months later, in December 1964. After this latter incident he spent 14 months, starting in April 1965, at Kingston Penitentiary, a maximum security prison in eastern Ontario.

Seventeen days after his release from jail in June 1966, Lamb took a shotgun from his uncle's house and went on a shooting spree around his East Windsor neighbourhood, killing two strangers and wounding two others. He was charged with capital murder, which under the era's Criminal Code called for a mandatory death penalty, but he avoided this fate when the court found, in January 1967, that he had not been sane at the time of the incident. As a result, he was committed for an indefinite time in a psychiatric unit. (more...)

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An aerial photograph of Diego Garcia

R (Bancoult) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (No 2) was a case of the House of Lords concerning the removal of the Chagos Islanders and the exercise of the Royal Prerogative. The Chagos Islands, acquired by the United Kingdom in 1814, were reorganised as the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) in 1965 for the purpose of removing its inhabitants. Under a 1971 Order-in-Council, the Chagossians were forcibly removed, and the central island of Diego Garcia leased to the United States for use as a military outpost. In 2000, Olivier Bancoult successfully brought a judicial review claim against the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs for the initial ordinance which led to the Chagossian removal. In response, Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, repealed the 1971 Order-in-Council and announced he would not appeal against the decision, allowing the Chagossians to return home. In 2004, a second Order-in-Council was produced, again reinstating the off-limits nature of the Chagos Islands. Bancoult brought a second case, arguing that this Order was again ultra vires and unreasonable, and that Cook had violated legitimate expectation by passing the second Order after giving the impression that the Chagossians were free to return home. On 22 October 2008, the Lords decided by a 3-2 majority to uphold the new Order-in-Council, stating that it was valid and, although judicial review actions could look at Orders-in-Council, the national security and foreign relations issues in the case barred them from doing so. (more...)

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A group of people holding placards in the middle of the road

House Bill 444 was a 2009 bill of the Hawaii State Legislature, passed in April 2010 and vetoed by Governor of Hawaii Linda Lingle, that would have legalized civil unions for couples in the state of Hawaii. Its legislative process was accompanied by controversy over the bill's content and effects and rallies were held by supporters and opponents.

The bill passed the Hawaii House of Representatives in February 2009 in a form specific to same-sex couples, was passed in amended form including opposite-sex couples by the Hawaii Senate in May 2009, and was carried over in the 2010 session, where it passed the Senate again in January 2010 with a veto-proof majority. The bill moved back to the House but was indefinitely postponed by a voice vote initiated by House Speaker Calvin Say, requiring a vote of two-thirds of Representatives to be taken up again in 2010, and was considered dead. In April 2010, on the last day of the legislative session, the House suspended the rules on the Senate bill and passed it with a majority, sending the bill to Governor Linda Lingle, who vetoed it in July 2010. (more...)

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