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Civil Law vs. Common Law: What's the Difference?

Edited by Sawaira Riaz || By Sara Rehman || Published on January 6, 2024
Civil law is a legal system based on written statutes and codes, whereas common law is based on judicial decisions and precedent.

Key Differences

Civil law, predominant in Europe and Latin America, relies on comprehensive legal codes and statutes drafted by legislative bodies. Common law, found primarily in the UK and its former colonies, is grounded in court judgments and precedent.
Sara Rehman
Jan 06, 2024
In civil law systems, judges apply the statutes to cases without much scope for interpretation. In common law systems, judges interpret laws and their decisions can set legal precedents.
Sara Rehman
Jan 06, 2024
Civil law provides a more predictable and systematic legal framework, with detailed codes covering various aspects of law. Common law is more adaptable, evolving through judicial decisions over time.
Sawaira Riaz
Jan 06, 2024
In civil law, legal scholars play a significant role in developing and interpreting the law. In common law, the judiciary plays a more prominent role in shaping legal principles through case law.
Janet White
Jan 06, 2024
The civil law system is less adversarial than the common law system, focusing more on finding the truth than on the strategy of opposing parties. Common law, on the other hand, features a more adversarial approach, emphasizing the role of lawyers in arguing cases.
Aimie Carlson
Jan 06, 2024
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Comparison Chart

Basis of Law

Written statutes and codes
Judicial decisions and precedent
Sara Rehman
Jan 06, 2024

Role of Judges

Apply laws, limited interpretation
Interpret laws, set precedents
Sara Rehman
Jan 06, 2024

Legal Framework

Systematic, predictable
Adaptable, evolving
Sawaira Riaz
Jan 06, 2024

Development

By legal scholars and legislators
Through judiciary and case law
Aimie Carlson
Jan 06, 2024

Nature of Legal Proceedings

Less adversarial, truth-focused
More adversarial, strategy-focused
Harlon Moss
Jan 06, 2024
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Civil Law and Common Law Definitions

Civil Law

A system where legislative bodies draft detailed legal codes.
In civil law systems, the role of a judge is to apply the written law to cases.
Aimie Carlson
Dec 14, 2023

Common Law

A legal system based on court judgments and precedents.
The doctrine of stare decisis is a fundamental principle of common law.
Sara Rehman
Dec 14, 2023

Civil Law

A legal tradition emphasizing codified law.
Many countries in Europe follow the civil law tradition.
Sara Rehman
Dec 14, 2023

Common Law

Law that originates from customs and judicial decisions.
Common law rights are not written in statutes but developed through court decisions.
Aimie Carlson
Dec 14, 2023

Civil Law

Laws governing private rights and remedies.
The civil law suit for breach of contract was settled out of court.
Sara Rehman
Dec 14, 2023

Common Law

A system where judicial decisions guide legal principles.
In common law, past judicial rulings are heavily relied upon in current cases.
Sara Rehman
Dec 14, 2023

Civil Law

Non-criminal law.
Property disputes are typically handled under civil law.
Sara Rehman
Dec 14, 2023

Common Law

Law developed by judges through decisions in court cases.
Common law evolves as judges interpret laws differently over time.
Sawaira Riaz
Dec 14, 2023

Civil Law

A legal system based on written codes and statutes.
The French Civil Code provides the basis for civil law in France.
Sara Rehman
Dec 14, 2023

Common Law

A legal tradition predominant in the UK and the US.
The United States follows a common law system, with variations across states.
Sara Rehman
Dec 14, 2023

Common Law

Of, relating to, or based on common law.
Sara Rehman
Dec 11, 2023

Common Law

Of or relating to a common-law marriage.
Sara Rehman
Dec 11, 2023

Common Law

Of or pertaining to common law.
Sara Rehman
Dec 11, 2023

Common Law

Relating to common-law marriage.
Sara Rehman
Dec 11, 2023

Common Law

Based on common law;
A common-law right
Sara Rehman
Dec 11, 2023

FAQs

How does common law develop?

Through judicial decisions and legal precedent.
Sawaira Riaz
Jan 06, 2024

Are civil law judges active in law-making?

No, they primarily interpret and apply existing statutes.
Sara Rehman
Jan 06, 2024

Is civil law more predictable than common law?

Generally yes, due to its reliance on detailed statutes.
Aimie Carlson
Jan 06, 2024

What is precedent in common law?

Precedent refers to previous court decisions used as a guide.
Janet White
Jan 06, 2024

Do lawyers in common law systems have a different role?

Yes, they often have a more significant role in shaping legal arguments.
Aimie Carlson
Jan 06, 2024

What is the primary source of civil law?

Written statutes and legal codes are the primary sources.
Sara Rehman
Jan 06, 2024

Can common law change over time?

Yes, it evolves with new judicial decisions and interpretations.
Harlon Moss
Jan 06, 2024

Are civil law codes comprehensive?

Yes, they aim to cover all areas of law systematically.
Harlon Moss
Jan 06, 2024

Can common law principles conflict with statutes?

Sometimes, though statutes generally take precedence.
Janet White
Jan 06, 2024

Is the role of precedent stronger in common law?

Yes, precedent plays a critical role in common law systems.
Aimie Carlson
Jan 06, 2024

Is civil law practiced in the US?

The US primarily follows common law, with some civil law influences in Louisiana.
Aimie Carlson
Jan 06, 2024

Can common law vary between jurisdictions?

Yes, it can vary significantly.
Janet White
Jan 06, 2024

Is jury use common in civil law systems?

No, jury trials are more common in common law systems.
Aimie Carlson
Jan 06, 2024

How does civil law handle contracts?

Through specific codes and statutes.
Sara Rehman
Jan 06, 2024

Is legal training different in civil law countries?

Yes, it often focuses more on understanding codified laws.
Sara Rehman
Jan 06, 2024

Are civil law statutes updated frequently?

They can be, depending on legislative changes.
Sara Rehman
Jan 06, 2024

Are there written constitutions in common law countries?

Yes, many common law countries have written constitutions.
Janet White
Jan 06, 2024

Do civil law systems use jury trials?

Rarely, as judges typically decide cases.
Aimie Carlson
Jan 06, 2024

How do common law courts view past decisions?

They view them as highly influential, though not absolutely binding.
Harlon Moss
Jan 06, 2024

Do common law judges have more discretion?

Yes, especially in interpreting and applying the law.
Sara Rehman
Jan 06, 2024
About Author
Written by
Sara Rehman
Sara Rehman is a seasoned writer and editor with extensive experience at Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Information Technology, she combines her academic prowess with her passion for writing to deliver insightful and well-researched content.
Edited by
Sawaira Riaz
Sawaira is a dedicated content editor at difference.wiki, where she meticulously refines articles to ensure clarity and accuracy. With a keen eye for detail, she upholds the site's commitment to delivering insightful and precise content.

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