On June 15, 1215 at Runnymede, King John affixed his seal on Magna Carta. Eight hundred years later Magna Carta remains one of the world’s most important documents, especially in America where it heavily influenced the drafters of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Magna Carta remains relevant today as a symbol of liberty and the fundamental principle that no one is above the law:
No free man is to be arrested, or imprisoned, or disseised, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any other way ruined, nor will we go against him or send against him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.
–Magna Carta, Clause 39
Want to learn more about Magna Carta? Please see the law library’s new guide to Select Resources about Magna Carta.
Just over a year ago, I shared information here about the tragic events in Norway and the legal process that would follow. Today the Norwegian court found Breivik sane and therefore legally responsible for killing 77 people. This decision will keep Breivik in prison for a least 21 years but likely more, as this maximum punishment under Norwegian Law may be enhanced if he is deemed a danger to society.
Interested in locating international news sources about this or other topics? One option is a Google “news” search. GMU patrons also have access to several news databases, including NewsBank which includes several hundred international newspapers, news services and broadcast media
One hundred years ago today, the RMS Titanic sank, tragically costing more than 1,500 people their lives.
In Custodia Legis blog has a very interesting post about this disaster from a legal perspective, specifically the then applicable laws related to lifeboats–with which the Titanic was in compliance. Under UK shipping laws at the time, lifeboat capacity was based on ship tonnage rather than numbers of passengers. According to a Senate Report issued after 18 days of hearings, the Titanic exceeded those requirements by having a lifeboat capacity of 1,176. The ship had more than 2,200 passengers and crew, but fewer than a quarter of that number survived.
There were lawsuits for personal injury, wrongful death, and property damage. Claims against the ship’s owner in a U.S. courts, however, were severely limited under U.S. Admiralty Law. See Oceanic Steam Navigation Co. v. Mellor, 233 U.S. 712 (1913). Ultimately, cases filed in both the United States and England were resolved by a consolidated settlement. See Robert D. Peltz, The Titanic’s Legacy: The History and Legal Developments Following the World’s Most Famous Maritime Disaster, 12 U.S.F. Mar. L.J. 45 (1999).
After Robert Ballard discovered the Titanic wreckage, Congress passed the R.M.S. Titanic Memorial Act of 1986 designating the site “an international maritime memorial to the men,women, and children who perished aboard her.”
Some of the the resources available to GMUSL readers to learn more include:
In addition, the International Maritime Organization website has information on the history of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) adopted in response to Titanic tragedy.
The tragedy in Norway occurred just days after I was fortunate to visit Oslo—a normally peaceful city where one of the main attactions for visitors is City Hall, the site of the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony. These horrific events have now brought Oslo and the Norwegian Legal Process into the forefront of international attention.
According to an article in The Telegraph, admitted shooter and bomber Anders Behring will have a detention hearing before a District Court judge (held today, in closed session). He will later be examined by doctors to assess his mental fitness to stand trial. The article cites unamed legal experts who say that a trial is likely to occur in about a year.
Behring has been charged under Norway’s anti-terriorism laws. Currently, Norwegian law provides for a maximum prison term of 21 years and there is no death penalty. However, according to a law professor at the University of Oslo, jail terms are renewable for 5 years if the court determines there is a risk of repeat offenses. The Norwegian Parliament has decided to raise the maximum prison term for terriorism to 30 years, but the law is not yet in effect.
The Norwegian courts have a useful website, available in English, that explains Norway’s judicial system. An unofficial English translation of the Norwegian Penal Code is available here. Additional resources include the Law Library of Congress Norwegian Law research guide and the Foreign Law Guide database available to the GMUSL community.