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  • Law

Top ten developments in international law in 2017

Two thousand and seventeen was, once again, a dramatic year in terms of world affairs. Fears about a rising tide of nationalism were stemmed by the failure of far-right parties to win majorities in the Dutch, French, and German elections but the impact of arguably 2016’s biggest upheaval – the election of President Trump – was felt far and wide.

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The first “Citizen Enemy Combatants” and the war on terror today

The United States Department of Defense has acknowledged that it is holding a natural-born United States citizen in its custody in Iraq as an enemy combatant. The prisoner, who the government states were fighting for ISIS and turned himself over to United States allies in Syria, has now been in military custody for over four months.

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Suing a company when you didn’t use its product

Ordinarily, American law says that you can sue a company only if you used the company’s product and that product injured you. Due to an odd quirk of pharmaceutical law, people who live in several of the United States are about to learn whether that fundamental principle remains true. The United States Food and Drug Administration tells pharmaceutical manufacturers what the manufacturers can say on a drug’s labeling.

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Unfitness to plead law and the fallacy of a fair trial

Cognitive disability is not well accommodated in criminal justice systems. Yet, people with cognitive disability are overrepresented in these systems. Unfitness to plead law is one legal mechanism that is purported to assist when a person with cognitive disability is charged with a crime. The aim of such laws is claimed to be to prevent an individual with cognitive disability to have to engage in a trial process.

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Test your knowledge of the English legal system

The English legal system has a long history of traditions and symbolism. Do you know your periwigs from your powdered wigs, your judicial dress from your barrister’s robes, and your green bags from your gavels? While some of the quirks and traditions of the English legal system may seem archaic, even bizarre, they from part of the fundamental constitution of UK culture and are therefore of relevance to anyone with an interest in it.

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What the House-Senate Conference Committee should do about the Johnson Amendment

The Johnson Amendment is the part of Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3) which bans tax-exempt institutions from participating in political campaigns. The US House of Representatives has passed H.R.1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, to revise the Code. Section 5201 of H.R. 1 would modify the Johnson Amendment. H.R. 1 gets three things right and wrong about the Johnson Amendment.

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Towards a study of the role of law in the Arab Spring

The Arab Spring has been the subject of a growing body of scholarship. Much of this commentary has hitherto related to political and economic analysis of the events that took place in many Arab countries since December 2010. Nevertheless, the role of law remains understudied. There are several inter-related temporal, empirical, and theoretical difficulties that impede a proper analysis of the role of law in the Arab Spring.

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Key UK legislation 1987-2017 [timeline]

Where were you in 1987? Platoon wins the best picture Oscar, the Channel Tunnel gets the go ahead, and The Great Storm batters South East England. Meanwhile in a Greek restaurant in Shepherd’s Bush, Francis Rose and publisher Alistair MacQueen come up with the idea of the Blackstone’s Statutes series. Thirty years later the series is still going strong thanks to careful editorship and a conscientious selection of legislation.

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The politics of contamination

Since entering office, the Trump administration has diverged from its predecessor on many fronts. Environmental regulation and drug control are two prime examples. Under Scott Pruitt, the EPA has loosened or eliminated numerous Obama administration rules on pollution and jettisoned climate-change research. At the Department of Justice, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has instructed federal prosecutors to seek maximum penalties for drug-law offenders

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Brexit and the flow of personal data

At the moment the media, political parties and the legal establishment are all focussed on the big questions of Brexit. What happens to the Northern Ireland border? What does Brexit mean for farmers? And what does it mean for the future of the Nations and regions of the UK? However potentially the most problematic aspects of Brexit are not the big issues but the small technical details

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What counts as discrimination?

Recent news headlines have focused on allegations of sexual harassment against film tycoon Harvey Weinstein. While the allegations are troubling, they also provide us with an opportunity to consider whether employment discrimination law would properly respond to them. In the United States, the answer is not as clear as one might hope.

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An extinction event for foundations?

Private foundations – the legal entities that have funded social innovations as diverse as breakthrough civil rights litigation and the development of the 911 emergency response system – may be nearing an end. This is certainly not because they have spent down their endowments; the largest still contain billions of dollars and as of 2014 independent and family foundation endowments still contained over $700 billion in assets.

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Sharia courts in America?

Islamic courts need not be scary so long as they adopt the general framework used for religious arbitration in America. Islamic arbitration tribunals have a place in America (just like any religious arbitration does), but Sharia Courts must function consistent with American attitudes and laws towards religious arbitration tribunals generally. By observing how Jewish rabbinical courts are regulated by US law and function within their religious communities, one sees that Islamic courts could be another example of the kind of religious arbitration that is a well-established feature of the American religious life.

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The constitutionality of the parsonage allowance

Under Internal Revenue Code Section 107(2), “ministers of the gospel” can exclude from the federal income tax cash payments from their congregations and other religious employers for such ministers’ housing. The IRS and the courts have held that this income tax exclusion applies to clergy of all religions including rabbis, cantors, and imams. Income tax-free housing payments to clergy are commonly denoted as “parsonage allowances.”

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Catalan independence in the Spanish Constitution and Courts

Following the recent ‘referendum’ and now declaration of independence, the status of Catalonia has become a hotly debated issue. As often happens in such cases, context is everything. It is not possible to appraise the perceived legitimacy of the respective claims without a clear picture of who says or does what in the particular legal environment (see mutatis mutandis the ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada on the secession of Québec, para. 155).

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