Questions tagged [legal-history]

For questions related to how and why law has evolved over time.

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Did Royal Navy or US Navy courts martial or boards of inquiry ever use a bell as a gavel?

In Star Trek (not the best guide to law), a Starfleet Board of Inquiry equivalent is shown with the presiding officer striking a tiny bell to indicate that proceedings were commencing or adjourned (...
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Is the right to an abortion "deeply rooted in this Nation's history and tradition?"

I recently came across an article on the internet containing the following passage: "Nearly all [of] the evidence that he [Alito] cites [in the recent-leaked draft of an opinion that would ...
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Strictly speaking, are damages an essential element of breach of contract?

Several resources, including one from an attorney in California and another from an attorney in Arizona state that harm or damages to the non-breaching party is an essential element of a breach of ...
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What is the history of visas and when did they begin to become requirements for entering a country?

I was told that back in the day (like Renaissance era) you didn't need a visa to go to places. Specifically the US and UK but I'm guessing it was all relatively closer to the same time around the ...
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Where does the term common law come from?

The term for the legal system derived from the medieval English system is generally Common Law, as opposed to for example the Roman Law or the system derived from the French Code Civil (Civil Law). I ...
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What is the relationship between American laws, the constitution, and pre-revolutionary common law judicial precedents?

Pre-revolutionary English judicial precedents unless overturned by American acts of Congress have a forceful effect in American law, don’t they? Otherwise how do you end up with the scotus citing the ...
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Was the Haitorei ever repealed?

In 1870, the first Sword Abolishment Edict (廃刀令, Haitōrei) banned farmers and merchants from impersonating samurai and wearing swords in public. In 1876, the second Sword Abolishment Edict followed, ...
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Were USA states really this disconnected in 1964, and was bigamy really punished by death?

I've just watched the The Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode Three Wives Too Many from 1964. In it, a man has a wife in four different USA states, traveling between them constantly and keeping them secret ...
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What is the longest known time between the commission of an offence and conviction in English legal history?

In England & Wales, the former Labour peer Lord Ahmed was recently jailed for sexual offences he was convicted of dating from the early 1970s. This 50+ year gap seems quite long, although ...
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What is the significance of raising one's right hand before making an oath or affirmation?

It is common in many jurisdictions to raise one's right hand before making an oath or affirmation. What is the origin and meaning of such a practice? This can help answer similar questions. For ...
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Where can I find ‘The Common Law: Judicial Impartiality and Judge-Made Law’?

I’m working on the translation of a document, which quotes a substantial part of this text: ‘The Common Law: Judicial Impartiality and Judge-Made Law’ by H. K. Luke. After some research, I realized ...
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What is the history behind the intangible right of honest services?

In 1988, the US Congress passed 18 U.S. Code § 1346, establishing that a scheme to infringe someone's right to honest services is sufficient to constitute mail or wire fraud: For the purposes of this ...
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2 votes
1 answer
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What is the history and international scope of the “Exclusionary Rule"?

The "exclusionary Rule" is a rule of criminal procedure in US courts that forbids admission of evidence obtained through violation of an accused person's fifth or sixth amendment rights, or ...
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Is there "evidence-based" practice in law?

"Evidence-based practice" (sometimes colloquially called "what works") is a buzzword floating around many professions nowadays, especially medicine and education. The idea is to ...
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1 vote
4 answers
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Legal Definition of "Great Britain"

Great Britain is the geographical name of the largest island in the British Isles (sometimes inclusive of the smaller islands on its insular shelf) but the name has, at least in the past, also been ...
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Did the American Tobacco Company engage in predatory pricing practices? What evidence was presented that lead the court to conclude they hadn't?

I started reading about the history of the American Tobaccco Company to try to understand more about why they were convicted of violating the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890. For some context, let's ...
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Why does the Sale of Goods Act 1979 haphazardly waver between transferring PROPERTY vs. TITLE?

It feels haphazard for the SGA 1979 to oscillate between referring to transfer property most times, but title other times. Can you please ratiocinate these oscillations? What happens if you replace ...
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Did Sweden really make it illegal to sell imported Nintendo 64 games (and *only* those) in the later half of 1997?

I'm re-reading my old Super PLAY magazines from the 1990s. Since before the Nintendo 64 was released in Sweden/Europe, and after it had occurred, the magazines were full of ads selling imported USA ...
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What is the origin of "friend of the court"?

Just curious. As a non-lawyer, I often see the phrase "friend of the court". It is obvious to the layman what it means, but when and where did this first become "a thing"?
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In modern day America, why are libel, slander and defamation covered by separate laws?

In 21st century America the laws governing libel, slander and defamation are wholly separate even through they overlap in substantial areas, rather than there being a single law covering all three. Is ...
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What if a citizen does not accept all laws? [closed]

What if a citizen does not accept all laws? Are there exceptions, when it's not reasonable? Or are laws so "well-developed" so that one should believe in their rationality without ...
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Why was it formerly illegal to use the Swiss coat of arms in the United States?

18 U.S.C. § 708 formerly made the unauthorised commercial usage of the Swiss coat of arms (the white cross on a red field) a criminal offense in the United States. It was repealed this year, but why ...
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6 votes
2 answers
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Why did English legal convention forbid many types of internal punctuation?

Even with internal punctuation now, and canons of interpretation, "series of items or activities" can be ambiguous, and are arguable and appealed to final courts of appeal. Why did legal ...
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3 votes
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What was the longest not stricken complaint filed in any U.S. court in the history of the U.S.?

Might sound like a trivia question, but it may have practical implications, too. If there is a different number for "with Exhibits" and "without Exhibits", that would also be ...
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Did the prerogative writ of prohibition ever have a Latin name?

Four of the five prerogative writs are known by their Latin names (habeas corpus, mandamus, quo warranto, certiorari), but I have never seen the fifth referred to as anything other than 'prohibition'. ...
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4 votes
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What is the principle that children can consent to other children of the same age, but not to an adult, called?

Two three year old children that agree on "playing doctor" and examining each others bodies, including genitalia are not committing a crime (but if one three year old child forces another ...
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In Francis Bacon's time, was common law much less rules-governed than civil law?

In a paper on the legal inspiration of Francis Bacon's philosophical terms, it is argued that Bacon was more likely inspired by civil law rather than the common law, reflecting the fact that in his ...
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Did they not require any kind of passport or identity when traveling between countries before the year 1914?

During World War I, European governments introduced border passport requirements for security reasons, and to control the emigration of people with useful skills. These controls remained in place ...
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3 votes
2 answers
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Were the Nuremberg trials legal with respect to the US constitution?

I'm very much a layman, and an Englishman rather than American, with an interest in political philosophy. I was reading through the US constitution the other day, and one sentence in Article I, ...
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1 answer
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Miranda warning - requirement to be "read"

Colloquial commentary, TV cop-shows and the like often make reference to the Miranda warning being read to a suspect although this is not mentioned within the linked Wikipedia article. The dictionary ...
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6 votes
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The Californian Mask Laws of 1918

I am trying to find the text or at least the proper citation for the mask laws in San Francisco and other cities in 1918. However my research only tells me that they existed, when they were enacted ...
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1 vote
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How can we reconcile the fact that common law, relative to civil law, give judges more power in interpreting law but less power in guiding trials? [closed]

In common law, judge-made precedents are more important than in civil law where judges are supposed to stick more closely to the written code. Thus, one may say that judges are given more power in ...
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What are the historical reasons that France adopted civil rather than common law?

The story I heard is that revolutionaries thought that judges were corrupt and thus should be left to interpret the law, and thus should closely follow codified rules. Is that historically accurate?
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In the 1810 French penal code, were "stocks" a more heavy punishment than imprisonment?

In the 1810 French penal code, the prescribed sentence for some crimes is "carcan" (stocks), which is described as being put in stocks at a public place with information about one's name, ...
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4 votes
2 answers
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When did U.S. tax code limit the personal Capital Loss Deduction to $3000?

Beginning in the late 1970s, after capital losses offset capital gains dollar for dollar, the allowable deduction on the IRS 1040 form for capital losses coming from Schedule D was $3000. The same is ...
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1 answer
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Could you fix and carry (for self defense) antique firearms in 2010 New York?

Forgive me for basing this on a pop-culture reference. I heard this on a TV show: Abe: They (antique guns) are considered collectibles, so they don't have to be registered. Castle: Making it pretty ...
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1 answer
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How did the USA justify its war against Vietnam by way of International Law?

According to Shaws book on International Law: The Soviet Union made considerable use of legal arguments in its efforts to establish its non-liability to contribute towards the peace-keeping ...
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1 vote
3 answers
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Under what aspect of International Law could the Allies divide up Germany into Western and Eastern spheres of influence?

After the defeat of Nazi Germany the Allies, in particular, the United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union at Potsdam came to an agreement concerning the military occupation and ...
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3 votes
0 answers
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Why does the monetary fine portion of a law seem so much less severe than the prison time? [duplicate]

I have over time seen many US laws where the text reads a penalty of $1000 or 1 year imprisonment. The latest one I’ve seen was on my Twitter feed: But I’ve seen many like this over the years. Is ...
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Has the fugitive slave clause of the US constitution been used since passage of the 13th Amendment?

The Wikipedia article on the 'Fugitive Slave Clause' of the US constitution (Art. IV § 2(3)) says (emphasis added): The passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which ...
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2 votes
1 answer
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I'm trying to find what the 197 penal code was in the 1930's

For a project on the book ''Of Mice and Of Men'', I have to prove that George is innocent of the murder of Lennie. My goal is to say that George didn't commit murder, but that it was a justified ...
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Could the federal government ban people from drinking coffee?

Which amendment does this statement violate? The federal government refuses to allow anyone to drink coffee.
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Belgium's historical Charter for indefinite access to UK waters

In 1666 King Charles II issued the Fisheries Privilege Charter granting 50 fishermen from the city of Bruges ‘eternal access’ to British waters, and the EU are now trying to 'grandfather' this treaty. ...
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Why do lawyers ask "Is it not true that ..."

I am aware of this previous related question Alternative to "Isn't it true that...?" when questioning witnesses The most upvoted answer to that question gave alternative ways of speaking....
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3 votes
1 answer
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Is there any legal obligation for companies to provide firmware?

I am currently trying to get firmware from a company called Sunfire a formerly Washington State corporation, which makes home theater products. They have a discontinued line of products, and have ...
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1 answer
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What is the term for when a leader being responsible when they suggests something and someone acts on it?

I recall there was a term for a very specific thing that can happen when the person in charge - king, president, dictator, etc - suggests something be done and someone does it, that might make the ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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Focus on arson in New Mexico Constitution -- why? typo?

In the State Constitution of New Mexico, Article II Section 24 Rights of Crime Victims, all the victims' rights are listed specifically for "a victim of arson" (see https://law.lclark.edu/...
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Why is the manufacturer of a wireless radio device responsible for preventing end-user modifications? [closed]

One of those things that irks me about the FCC regulations is that manufacturers are responsible for preventing, and can apparently be held liable for, end-user modifications to wireless radio devices ...
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Why weren't the US Navy and Marines added to the Posse Comitatus Act in 1956?

The Posse Comitatus Act was originally enacted in 1878 to restrict the use of the United States military in many domestic matters. Originally, the act only covered the Army, which doesn't seem ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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Would a jury have been used in a divorce trial in 1920s England?

Alfred Hitchcock's silent film Easy Virtue opens with a divorce trial, interspersed with flashbacks. The film is set in the 1920s, and the trial is in England. It seems to show a jury meeting and ...
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