Difference between Civil Law and Common Law

Key Difference: Civil Law systems originated in Western Europe and are an intellectualized framework of the Roman law and the Code of Justinian. Civil law system is based on laws or codes that have been written down and properly codified. These laws are made well-known to the public and are followed to the point. In a common law system, the judges play a bigger part in creating laws as well as altering and modifying laws based on old preceding cases. In a common law justice system, the laws of a country depend on the rulings or decisions of courts or other tribunals, where it is believed justice prevailed.

When we talk about Civil Law and Common Law together, we are referring to the actual law systems that govern the country. These law systems are essential to the survival of the country and to maintain peace and quiet in a particular country. The legal system of each country decides how it plans on setting up laws, how the laws will be enforced, how are new laws going to be made and how the law breakers will be punished. The two most common legal systems that are in existence are Civil Law System and the Common Law System. Civil Law system is by far the most used system on Earth.

Civil Law systems originated in Western Europe and are an intellectualized framework of the Roman law and the Code of Justinian. The Roman law is one of the oldest existing law systems and was popular in throughout the Western continental Europe, even after fall of the Roman Empire. The laws were originally derived from the legal ideas and systems mentioned in the Code of Justinian but have now been heavily overlaid by Germanic, feudal and local practices. Civil law system is based on laws or codes that have been written down and properly codified. These laws are made well-known to the public and are followed to the point.

The laws are expected to cover almost every aspect of the legal system. These laws are a list of codified set of rules that are constantly updated and specific all matters that can be brought to the court. The codes are used as reference guide to state what is unlawful and to punish the law breakers. There is little room for alternation and assumption. These codes do not require the judges to look to previous cases for passing judgment on the current case. The judge would refer to the book of laws and see the proper process regarding the criminal activity and what would be the punishment for that particular activity. Civil law holds case law secondary to statutory law. Jury trials are not used, although in some cases, they may set up a mixed panel of magistrates and judges. In civil law, the judges often bring the formal charges, investigate the matter and then pass judgment on the proceedings.

In a common law system, the judges play a bigger part in creating laws as well as altering and modifying laws based on old preceding cases. In a common law justice system, the laws of a country depend on the rulings or decisions of courts or other tribunals, where it is believed justice prevailed. Common Laws are laws that have come about of been enacted based on court rulings. These laws are developed based on rulings that have been given in older court cases. Common laws are also known as case law or precedent. These rules can be written as well as unwritten.

The general principal of this system is that similar cases with similar facts and issues should not be treated differently. If there is a dispute between laws, the authority or precedent looks to past cases and must provide the same reasoning and decision that was provided in the first case. The laws can also be altered and evolved based on the circumstances. The judges also have the authority to create new laws or alter and interpret older laws. Once the law has been altered or changed during the ongoing case, the law will then be enforceable on all other cases henceforth with similar evidence and situations. Many countries live in common law systems or mixed systems. In a common law court, a jury is set up to hear the case and then determine if the defendant is guilty or not guilty. On the basis of this decision, the judge then determines the best punishment for the guilty based on older proceedings. In a common law system, more focus is put on the precedent, compared to the statutory laws, which are basically ambiguous laws.

Image Courtesy: dibussi.com, faculty.cua.edu

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