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People can sue an agency, local council, public service, or government ministry for judicial review of actions or decisions, to ensure that they comply with the law, and that the government entity observed required procedure. The first specialist administrative court was the Conseil d’État set up in 1799, as Napoleon assumed power in France. As the European Court of Human Rights has stated, the law should be adequately accessible to everyone and people should be able to foresee how the law affects them. In civil law systems such as those of Italy, France, Germany, Spain and Greece, there is a distinct category of notary, a legally trained public official, compensated by the parties to a transaction. This is a 16th-century painting of such a notary by Flemish painter Quentin Massys.

As a legal system, Roman law has affected the development of law worldwide. It also forms the basis for the law codes of most countries of continental Europe and has played an important role in the creation of the idea of a common European culture (Stein, Roman Law in European History, 2, 104–107). Space law is a relatively new field dealing with aspects of international law regarding human activities in Earth orbit and outer space. While at first addressing space relations of countries via treaties, increasingly it is addressing areas such as space commercialisation, property, liability, and other issues. Intellectual property law aims at safeguarding creators and other producers of intellectual goods and services.

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A better known tort is defamation, which occurs, for example, when a newspaper makes unsupportable allegations that damage a politician’s reputation. More infamous are economic torts, which form the basis of labour law in some countries by making trade unions liable for strikes, when statute does not provide immunity. In exceptional circumstances defences can apply to specific acts, such as killing in self defence, or pleading insanity. Another example is in the 19th-century English case of R v Dudley and Stephens, which tested a defence of “necessity”. Three crew members and Richard Parker, a 17-year-old cabin boy, were stranded on a raft. They argued it was necessary to kill the cabin boy to preserve their own lives.

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Both these codes influenced heavily not only the law systems of the countries in continental Europe (e.g. Greece), but also the Japanese and Korean legal traditions. Today, countries that have civil law systems range from Russia and Turkey to most of Central and Latin America. Sociology of law is a diverse field of study that examines the interaction of law with society and overlaps with jurisprudence, philosophy of law, social theory and more specialised subjects such as criminology. The institutions of social construction, social norms, dispute processing and legal culture are key areas for inquiry in this knowledge field. In the United States the field is usually called law and society studies; in Europe it is more often referred to as socio-legal studies. At first, jurists and legal philosophers were suspicious of sociology of law.

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Land law forms the basis for most kinds of property law, and is the most complex. It concerns mortgages, rental agreements, licences, covenants, easements and the statutory systems for land registration. Regulations on the use of personal property fall under intellectual property, company law, trusts and commercial law. The goldsmith’s apprentice looked at it, sneakily removed the stones, told the boy it was worth three halfpence and that he would buy it.

The UK Sale of Goods Act 1979 and the US Uniform Commercial Code are examples of codified common law commercial principles. In the ‘lower house’ politicians are elected to represent smaller constituencies. The ‘upper house’ is usually elected to represent states in a federal system or different voting configuration in a unitary system . In the UK the upper house is appointed by the government as a house of review.

Under a presidential system, the executive branch is separate from the legislature to which it is not accountable. The executive in a legal system serves as the centre of political authority of the State. In a parliamentary system, as with Britain, Italy, Germany, India, and Japan, the executive is known as the cabinet, and composed of members of the legislature.

By the 22nd century BC, the ancient Sumerian ruler Ur-Nammu had formulated the first law code, which consisted of casuistic statements (“if … then …”). Around 1760 BC, King Hammurabi further developed Babylonian law, by codifying and inscribing it in stone. Hammurabi placed several copies of his law code throughout the kingdom of Babylon as stelae, for the entire public to see; this became known as the Codex Hammurabi. The most intact copy of these stelae was discovered in the 19th century by British Assyriologists, and has since been fully transliterated and translated into various languages, including English, Italian, German, and French. One-year master’s degree programs and a doctoral degree for international graduate students who have earned a law degree outside the United States.

Most countries have systems of appeal courts, with an apex court as the ultimate judicial authority. In the United States, this authority is the Supreme Court; in Australia, the High Court; in the UK, the Supreme Court; in Germany, the Bundesverfassungsgericht; and in France, the Cour de Cassation. For most European countries the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg can overrule national law, when EU law is relevant.

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