Possibly related: Where/how do we draw the line between legal and political questions?

We already have quite a few questions that at least touch on law. One in particular - What is the legality of using foreign law to decide domestic cases? - is essentially of the form "Is X legal (in Y jurisdiction)?"

How do we feel about such questions? Are they on-topic? If so, would that situation change if a hypothetical law.stackexchange.com site came into existence?

  • How is this different from the other post you linked to? Dec 15, 2012 at 5:48
  • @MichaelMrozek The other post assumes an either/or distinction between legal and political questions, and asks whether a particular category of question is legal or political. This question asks whether legal questions are on-topic.
    – user97
    Dec 15, 2012 at 6:10

5 Answers 5


I think we should be careful about painting all "law" questions with the same brush. I think the types of questions that @DJClayworth lists in his answer would be out of line for this site. I would categorize these types of questions "legal advice" and not a good fit for a politics site.

However questions of the form, "Side X of the public policy debate Y argue that the proposal is unconstitutional (or in conflict with existing federal statute), is it actually legal?" should be permitted as they are fundamental to the understanding of the public policy question and a discussion of the legality of particular viewpoints is germane.

  • 1
    I would not disgree with this. Legal questions related to politics should be on topic. Put a question isn't related to politics just because it is legal. Dec 21, 2012 at 0:42

My personal view is that they're fine; law and politics are fundamentally intertwined in practice (and arguably so in theory), and it would in many cases be very difficult to separate out the legal aspects of a question from the political ones.


I'm going to suggest that we want to answer NO to this. Because...

  1. Where do we draw the line as to what kinds of legal questions are on topic? Can people ask whether they have to submit to a search? Whether their landlord can evict them? If a security guard can arrest them? These don't seem to have any relationship to politics at all
  2. If we allow these questions for beta, are we really going to throw them out when we graduate? Remember that this could be one or more years away.
  3. It's a really bad idea to host questions "until the right site is started". Firstly answering those questions here will decrease the effort to get a real legal questions site started. Secondly, when it is, many people will have got used to the idea that this is the place to come for legal questions. So that takes away from the legal site.

I agree with @zero, with the caveat that if law.SE ever gets created, we should go through the effort of lobbing some of the "more law than politics" questions there, especially those without good answers.

  • Who is @zero? user97?
    – Golden Cuy
    Jul 17, 2013 at 3:46
  • @AndrewGrimm - yes.
    – user4012
    Jul 17, 2013 at 12:16

On Christianity.SE, we have a category of off-topic questions called 'Pastoral Advice'. We are very clear that we aren't priests - we don't know an individual's circumstance, and we don't try to "fix" people over the internet. In the same fashion, this is not and should not become a site for legal advice.

That said, we ask questions about theology - the general rule, or significant and common issues - all the time. That is the bread and butter of that site, in the same way that policy is the bread and butter of this one.

So, why bring up the example? Simple - Politics encompasses policy, but does not give legal advice. The same lines apply -

  • GOOD: Does Copyright Law in the US allow for fair use?
  • BAD: I've just copied a song on my YouTube Video. Is that fair use?

  • GOOD: Under what circumstances does Irish law allow for an abortion?

  • BAD: I'm 17, I live in Ireland, and my boyfriend knocked me up and left. Is it ok for me to get an abortion?

  • GOOD: Is it legal in [country] to coin my own currency?

  • BAD: I've just xeroxed my paycheck. Is that ok?

Notice, the line between 'legal' and 'law' in the above examples is slight but identifiable. Legal is personal advice. We are not lawyers (IANAL, and WE-ANAL) and we should not seek to be such. But, discussing the policy implications of a broad scope is relevant.

The line to me is simple - if you need to include personal details in order to phrase the question, its probably legal and off-topic. If you can ask it about a whole bunch of people, its policy, and fair game.

  • 2
    The distinction you've described is not between politics and law, it's between personal legal advice and general legal info applicable to many. All your examples belong in a Legal.SE that might exist one day, none of them should be addressed here. Jul 16, 2013 at 19:33
  • P.S.: That goes, too, for the only Answer I've provided in Politics.SE... the question should not have been permitted in the first place. Jul 16, 2013 at 19:34
  • Your 2nd BAD question is the same as your good question. It's only issue is that "Is it OK for me to get an abortion" is imprecise. If you replace OK with legal, it is exactly the same question with useless detail included. (Unless 17 year olds are denied abortions, denied without parental consent, ...)
    – user1873
    Jul 17, 2013 at 3:09

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