Civil Law vs Common Law

Topics: Common law / Pages: 6 (1472 words) / Published: Oct 10th, 2013
POLS 2200
Paper #1

Common Law vs. Civil Law

There are nearly 200 nations in the world, each with their own distinct legal system based on one of the four major legal systems: common law, civil law, socialist law, and religious law. The majority of countries today follow either common law or civil law. Here in the United States we practice common law, as opposed to countries like France and Germany, which practice civil law. There are several differences between these two legal systems, however, common law in the United States would not be what it is today if it weren’t for traditions of civil law. Furthermore, the traditions of civil law are reflected in many regions of the United States due to their European roots.

Common law, also referred to as Anglo-American law, is utilized in countries whose prominent language is English. Common law developed in England under an adversarial system from judicial decisions that were based in tradition, custom, and precedent. Before the Norman Conquest in 1066, English residents were governed by undocumented local customs that varied within each community, and were enforced in an often arbitrary fashion. After the Norman Conquest, medieval kings began to consolidate power and create new institutions of royal authority and justice. New forms of legal action established by the crown functioned through a system of royal orders known as “writs”. These orders provided certain solutions for a certain types of wrong doing.

In addition, common law forms a major part of the law of many nations, especially for those with a history as British, territories or colonies. In common law countries, court cases are initiated where one party accuses another of having violated the law. The judge’s role is very limited, simply to advise the adversaries and the jury of the law. Primarily, the lawyers are in charge of the case.

On the other hand, civil law is the oldest family of law and dates back to the Roman

Cited: "The Common Law and Civil Law Traditions." The Common Law and Civil Law Traditions. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2013. "Is Louisiana under Napoleonic Law?" Slate Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2013. "Legal Systems of the World." Ramapo College. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2013. Neubauer, David W., and Stephen S. Meinhold. Judicial Process: Laws, Courts, and Politics in the United States. 6th ed. Boston: Wadsworth, 2013. Print.

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