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Common Law vs Roman Law

Common Law and Roman Law are two influential legal systems with distinct origins and principles that have had a significant influence on other legal systems around the world. Common Law, developed in England and based on judicial precedent, emphasises case law and the principle of stare decisis. Roman Law, originating from ancient Rome, emphasises legislation and the systematic organisation of legal principles.


Common Law


Origins: Common law originated in England and evolved over centuries through court decisions and customs. It forms the basis of the legal systems in many English-speaking countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.


Precedent: One of the defining characteristics of common law is the reliance on precedent. Courts are bound by previous decisions, known as case law or judge-made law. Judges interpret statutes and apply legal principles based on prior court rulings, creating a body of legal principles and doctrines.


Flexibility: Common law is known for its flexibility and adaptability. Judges have the authority to interpret and apply the law in a manner that suits the particular circumstances of each case. This allows the law to evolve gradually through judicial decisions.


Role of Judges: Judges play a crucial role in the development of common law. They interpret statutes, fill in gaps in the law, and create legal principles through their judgments. Precedents set by higher courts serve as binding authority on lower courts.


Roman Law


Origins: Roman law is derived from the legal system of ancient Rome and has had a significant influence on continental European legal systems. It developed primarily through written legal codes and the works of jurists, such as Justinian's Corpus Juris Civilis.


Codification: Roman law emphasises codification, which means that legal principles and rules are set out in comprehensive written codes. These codes serve as the primary source of law and provide a systematic and organised framework for legal proceedings.


Legal categories: Roman law classifies legal matters into distinct categories, such as property law, contract law, and tort law. This classification allows for a structured approach to legal analysis and provides a comprehensive legal framework.


Role of judges: In Roman law, judges are primarily responsible for applying the law rather than developing it. Their role is to interpret and enforce the existing legal provisions, rather than creating new legal principles through their judgments.


Influence on civil law: Roman law has greatly influenced civil law systems found in many countries, including those in continental Europe, Latin America, and parts of Asia. Civil law systems often rely on comprehensive legal codes and place a greater emphasis on legislation rather than judicial precedent.


In summary, common law is based on judicial precedent and gradual development through court decisions, while Roman law relies on comprehensive legal codes and a structured framework. Common law allows for flexibility and adaptation, while Roman law provides a systematic and organised approach to legal matters. Both legal systems have shaped the development of legal systems around the world and continue to influence modern legal principles.

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