Civil law v. Common Law


QUESTION: How would you compare the CIVIL LAW system in its governance and trend with that of the COMMON LAW system?

ANSWER: As to governance in CIVIL LAW is codal, statutory and written. It is additionally derived from case law. COMMON LAW is basically derived from case law.

As to trend in CIVIL LAW, laws in many civilized nations have almost reached the point of saturation and there are fewer and fewer general laws passed. The trend is to rely more and more on decisions of courts explaining laws and adjusting interpretations. On the other hand, COMMON LAW nations are now tending to codify their laws more and more.

Hence, in both systems, there is a trend toward the middle ground.

COMMON LAW refers to the traditional part of the law as distinct from legislation; it refers to the universal part of law as distinct from particular local customs (Encyclopedia Americana, Vol. 7). On the other hand, CIVIL LAW is understood to be that branch of law governing the relationship of persons in respect of their personal and private interests as distinguished from both public and international laws.
In COMMON LAW countries, the traditional responsibility has for the most part been with the judges. In CIVIL LAW countries, the task is primarily reposed on the lawmakers. Contemporary practices, however, so indicate a trend towards centralizing that function to professional groups that may indeed see the gradual assimilation in time of both systems. (Vitug, Civil. Law and Jurisprudence)

In CIVIL LAW, the statutes theoretically take precedence over court decisions interpreting them; while in COMMON LAW, the court decisions resolving specific cases are regarded as law rather than the statutes themselves which are, at the start, merely embodiments of case law. CIVIL LAW is code law or written law, while COMMON LAW is case law.

CIVIL LAW adopts the deductive method (from the general to the particular), while the COMMON LAW uses the inductive approach (from the particular to the general). The latter relies on equity; the former anchors itself on the letter of the law.

Civilists are for the judge-proof law. Those who are for COMMON LAW support judge-made law. CIVIL LAW judges are merely supposed to apply laws and not interpret them.

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