What Is the Difference Between Common Law and Civil Law?

Common Law

The common law system is developed through judgments that are made by judiciary decisions, setting precedents. Judges create these laws on a case by case basis. Unless a distinguishing difference between previous decisions can be proven in the current case situation, the case situation may warrant a change. The judge is able to mandate the change, setting another precedent; otherwise common law follows a previously set precedent.

Civil Law

In civil law a civil higher level of authority creates the law through a legislative process, using legal statues or the US constitution for all cases. Unlike common law, civil laws were written in anticipation of future disputes with penalties for failure to abide. Civil law is not as flexible and only accepts modifications if the revisions are equal to fair treatment for all citizens. If an existing law is deemed unfair the law goes through the process to modify, amend or repeal it.

Law History

Although common law is what develops the civil law, both have distinct advantages and disadvantages in the courtroom. Image a flowchart, common law uses a method for defense from the bottom up, whereas, civil law uses a top down technique.

Both are required to use the basic principles that each law system was founded on to reach a determination in court. The principles for both common and civil law systems are based on a clearly defined method of authority, acknowledging legislative as the higher level.

Base on the legislative foundations the final deciding influences comes from the higher level court authorities, leaving the juridical levels to interpret each case based on previous precedent; arriving at a reasonable conclusion.

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