Major Differences between Common Law and Civil Law

Common law and civil law are two different legal systems that exist in different countries around the world. The main differences between these two systems are as follows:

Historical Development
Common law developed in England during the Middle Ages and has spread to many countries that were once part of the British Empire, including the United States, Canada, Australia, and India. Civil law, on the other hand, developed in Continental Europe, particularly in the Roman Empire.

Sources of Law
In common law countries, the primary sources of law are statutes, judicial decisions made by judges in past cases, known as case law or precedent. In civil law countries, the primary sources of law are codes and statutes created by the legislature, and legal scholars’ writings.

Role of Judges
In common law countries, judges play an active role in interpreting and applying the law to the facts of a case. They rely on precedent and past decisions to guide their decision-making. In civil law countries, judges play a more passive role, as they are expected to strictly apply the law as written in the codes and statutes.

Legal Terminology
In common law countries, legal terminology is often based on English language and includes terms such as plaintiff, defendant, precedent, tort, contract, and negligence. In civil law countries, legal terminology is often based on Latin and includes terms such as in rem, in personam, bona fide, and res judicata.

Legal Procedure
Common law countries rely on an adversarial legal system, where two opposing parties present their arguments and evidence to a judge or jury. In civil law countries, the legal system is often inquisitorial, where judges play a more active role in questioning witnesses and gathering evidence.

Emphasis on Written Law
In civil law countries, the law is heavily codified, meaning that there is a strong emphasis on written law, statutes and codes. In contrast, common law relies heavily on case law and the decisions made by judges, which are not always codified.

Role of Lawyers
In common law countries, lawyers play a significant role in the legal system, representing clients and presenting arguments in court. In civil law countries, lawyers are more often seen as legal advisers and consultants who provide advice to clients outside of the courtroom.
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