Common Law Civil Law

Essay by irmakbasak May 2006

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Civil law primarily contrasted against common law. The significant

difference is that, historically, common law was developed by

custom whereas civil law was developed by legal principles and the

interpretation of doctrinal writings rather than application of facts to

legal fictions. 'Common-law is extremely decentralized in terms of

the source of law (making place for evolving cultural changes) is

highly centralized in its administration because of the weight of

precedent. On the other hand, the civil-law which is centralized in

its source leaves from for a great deal of ad hoc interpretation.'

(Crump M.W.& Kahalas H. 1975). Therefore the civil-law is by its

nature more capable than the common-law and more adaptable to

changing situations.

The Other distinction between the common law and civil law

systems is that the role of precedent has tended to become less

significant. Common law courts have developed skills in

distinguishing earlier judgments of which they disapprove and civil

law system, precedents have a value.

Civil law countries try to

ensure that there is some certainty in the law and the same issue

will be decided in the same way. Civil law tradition prevents its

judges from establishing broad principles of law in the absence of

legislation. But in the common law system there is open possibility

for the same case.

'In civil law countries, legislation is seen as the primary source of

law. Thus, courts base their judgements on the provisions of codes

and statutes, from which solutions in particular cases are to be

derived.' (MacQueenH.L. 2000) By contrast, in the common law

system, cases are the primary sources of law, while statutes are

only seen as incursions into the common law and thus interpreted


Furthermore, separation of powers is differently in civil law...