Common Law (or common-law system) has evolved in various countries over centuries through judicial decisions and legal precedents rather than written laws such as statute books. Originating in England and spreading to America, Canada and Australia mainly by way of former British colonies; its presence can now be found everywhere from England through to Argentina, China and Iran primarily as a codification system of controlling legal precedents largely thanks to case law development.
Common law relies on judges and legal actors analyzing how past decisions impact current ones, then applying those judgments in reaching new legal judgments. Traditions trace their authority back to earlier decisions of judges as the system has matured into principles and doctrines over time. This article will trace its birth, evolution and significance throughout various countries today.
Origin and Evolution of Common Law.
Common law emerged in England during the Middle Ages as judges sought to interpret an existing collection of common law utterances inherited from earlier tribunals and make sense of them. Judges sought to make law more consistent, predictable and enforceable by creating rules, principles and doctrines based on what they saw as fundamental values and assumptions associated with legal systems – creating what became commonly known as common law through trial-and-error like science.
Common law was an invaluable way of creating predictable legal decision-making through its strict application of certain principles that were rigorously upheld by judges interpreting existing bodies of legal norms and precedent. Common Law principles like stare decisis (where decisions should be based upon past ones) and consistent law application allowed courts to provide more coherent resolutions of legal disputes than ever before.
Common law systems were particularly advantageous because of their ability to produce principles applicable universally for legal issues that arose within this legal tradition, based on long standing assumptions as well as traditions and customs of various cultures around the globe. As a result, their creation has given way to what has come to be known as “common law tradition,” providing the basis of legal systems all around the globe.
Common law’s third and most remarkable contribution was its focus on democracy, which laid the groundwork for contemporary democratic principles. A central assumption of common law was that its laws should reflect people’s desires and aspirations rather than serving only select interests or serving only private agendas.
Common Law has the key components to ensure its relevance for modern legal cases.
Common law is crucially important, for various reasons which are explored below:
Clarity and Predictability: The common law system offers citizens clarity and predictability in its operation, helping them better understand what to expect of themselves when making informed decisions regarding legal rights and obligations. Citizens also benefit from anticipating potential outcomes of actions undertaken, thus decreasing legal disputes risk.
Stability: The common law system ensures stability by creating an established body of law that can only be altered gradually through judicial decision-making processes, thus eliminating frequent or disruptive law changes that cause confusion or uncertainty for members of society.
Flexibility: While common law systems rely on established principles and precedents, they also remain flexible enough to adapt with changing social, economic, and political circumstances. Therefore as society adapts so does law adapt – taking account of any new issues which emerge while adapting accordingly.
Fairness: The common law system is founded upon principles of equality and fairness, so that every member, regardless of status or wealth, receives equal treatment under law. This ensures justice is not only done but seen to be done – building trust within our legal system in turn.
Accountability: The common law system promotes accountability by holding both individuals and institutions responsible for their actions, whether breaking laws or failing to abide by them. People can be held to account if they break them, while institutions could face consequences if their conduct does not conform with laws enacted against them.
Common Law Vs Civil Law Systems
Common law systems differ significantly from civil law systems in several ways. A civil law system draws its main source of law from legislation; while in common law systems it comes largely from court decisions and precedents. Furthermore, civil law tends to be more prescriptive with law set out explicitly within written codes; whilst common law systems provide greater flexibility with laws evolving gradually as court decisions dictate them.
Civil law systems tend to put more of an emphasis on the role of legislature and political institutions when creating laws; common law systems put greater weight on judges and their judicial systems as law makers. Civil law systems also tend to codify their laws into written documents while uncodified rules can evolve through accumulation of court rulings and precedents over time.
Common Law has long been an integral component of legal systems worldwide, having originated in England during the Middle Ages and later evolving over centuries into its modern incarnation based on principles, assumptions, and doctrines that form its core traditions.
There are numerous advantages of common law, including its capacity for clarity and predictability, stability, flexibility, fairness and accountability. Although civil law systems vary considerably in their application of principles such as these to legal decision-making processes today. Common Law remains an indispensable and relevant aspect of the legal landscape.