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Difference Between Civil and Common Law

law_balanceCivil vs Common Law

The legal system around the world is generally divided into two main categories: civil law and the common law system. There are over 150 nations around the world that operate under the civil law system whereas about 80 countries are recognized as common law countries. Both the law systems are typically considered as antagonistic players on a field claimed by different legal systems. There are fundamental differences between common law and civil law legal systems in their origins, development, and their contemporary applicability.

What is a Civil Law?

Civil law is sometimes referred to as code law because it is intellectualized within the framework of Roman law, the law code of the ancient Romans based on the legislation of the city of Rome. This is called a code law because of the importance this legal system assigns to codified statutes. The legal codes are updated continuously, along with the procedure and punishment for each offense. In civil law, the judge initiates proceedings by bringing charges. He questions witnesses and establishes facts based on witness statements.

What is a Common Law?

Common law was originally the body of law which was the legal system to all parts of England not customary or local law and developed over the centuries from the English courts only to be developed in countries using that system. The law is maintained and modified under the jurisdiction of the court and is valid unless it conflicts with statute law. It is a body of laws based on legal precedents and embodied in reports of decided cases. The role of a lawyer is more central; he represents the interests of his clients, advising clients on points of law.

Difference between Civil and Common Law

  • Origins

– The historical origins of the common law can be traced back to the early middle ages in the King’s court, a royal court set up for most of the country. Back then orders were issued which were called ‘writs’ and they were mostly used in judicial matters by the Norman kings. The civil law origins can be traced back to the laws of the continental Europe. The civil law draws heavily from Roman law, and with core principles codified into a referable system.

  • Nomenclature

– Common law is the body of law based on legal precedents known as case laws, rather than on written laws from statutes. Precedent is judicial verdict that has been established in the previous case. This is how a judge in common law legal system influences the development of the respected law. Civil law, on the other hand, is a codified system of law where rules and principles are laid upon in codes.

  • Role of Judge/Lawyer

– Unlike civil law, common law is not codified, which means there is no comprehensive set of legal rules and statutes. The common law legal system is based on some scattered statutes, but it largely puts emphasis on precedent, meaning the judicial decisions of the court has been based upon a subsequent case involving similar facts. In civil law system, judges play the major part, do most of the questioning, and identify the facts. The judge brings the formal charges and investigates the matter. The judge basically acts as an investigator.

Civil Law vs. Common Law: Comparison Chart


The civil law is a codified legal system where predefined statutes and ordinances predominate. It is a comprehensive compilation of legal statutes created by legislators. In a civil law system, the judge is responsible for questioning the witnesses and establishing facts. Common law, on the other hand, is not codified and the body of the law is based on legal precedents or case laws established by the courts.

What is the difference between common law and Roman civil law?

The Roman Civil Law is based upon constitution unlike common law, which is based on judicial precedents or case laws. The English Common Law is an uncodified law.

What is the difference between common law and civil law in Cameroon?

Cameroon is an exceptional case of bijural system, meaning both the French inspired civil law and the English common law coexist. This has given rise to some serious legal problems.

Is US civil or common law?

The U.S. legal system is a common law system that largely places its emphasis on court precedents, with the exception of Louisiana, which is a mix of common and civil law system.

Is civil or common law better?

Civil law is more streamlined and predictable because the legal system is codified and you can only be judged based on the pre-written laws and regulations.

What is an example of common law?

The concept of the common law marriage is a great example of the common law which acknowledges similar rights to the couple who have a valid marriage license. The common-law marriage is kind of a non-ceremonial marriage where the couples live together for a long period of time but have not registered for a marriage license.

What are the 4 types of civil law?

The four common types of civil law cases include contract or property disputes, tort claims, breach of contract, and class action cases.

What are some examples of civil law?

Examples o civil law include murder, assault, theft, robbery, DUI, arson, battery, medical malpractice, fraud, defamation, and more.

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  1. I wanted to know the difference between Civil and Common Law. I was reading a novel and learned that Louisiana was the only state that use Napoleon legal system vs. the Common law that the rest of the nation uses. I wondered how these two systems were different.

    I’m not a student. I’m in my late sixties but I am still learning. Thanks

  2. I have receive the diference between and i know this will expand my knowledge and to learn more. I am so much happy. I hope to get more on different topics.

  3. I have to completely disagree with the author’s summary, Point 1, in that the author is mistaken when they state that “Civil law was framed in France”. Civil Law was delevoped from Roman Law.
    The author needs to ensure that their reference and research material is complete and accurate. I would like for the author to produce and reference to his source that claims that civil law began in France.
    According to the information contained in this article, the author must not be someone who is in the legal field. If they were, they would know it is necessary to back your information up with credible sources.

  4. Provide me with up dated information in this regard.Difference
    between civil law and common law.


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References :

[0]Novakovic, Marko. Common Law and Civil Law Today - Convergence and Divergence. Delaware, United States: Vernon Press, 2019. Print

[1]Bersier, Nicoletta, et al. Common Law - Civil Law: The Great Divide? Berlin, Germany; Springer Nature, 2021. Print

[2]Milsom, S.F.C. A Natural History of the Common Law. New York, United States: Columbia University Press, 2003. Print

[3]Brand, Paul and Joshua Getzier. Judges and Judging in the History of the Common Law and Civil Law: From Antiquity to Modern Times. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Print

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