Common Law Essay

1320 WordsJul 7, 20126 Pages
Law and legislation Common law By Stephen Wilson The common law is used in the United Kingdom and most countries that used to be colonies of the British Empire including the United States. Many other countries use a system called civil law, where people say that legislation is the only kind of law. In common law countries, courts usually have more power than in civil law countries. From old English common law is a law that is not written into the statutes, but is commonly recognized as law. Common law marriages are one example. In some states when a couple cohabitates for a certain number of years, they are considered married by common law, even though they have not had a civil ceremony or religious ceremony. Common law is based largely from previous cases, or precedents. Common law started in England when courts decided to use tradition, custom and precedent to help them make decisions. A precedent is something that another court has done in the past. By looking at decisions by earlier court, a common-law court tries to make decisions that will not surprise people and that fit in with the rest of the law. In common law countries, when people like lawyers and judges want to know what the law is, they also look at what courts have written. When a court decides a case, it makes a decision and then usually delivers a judgment or an opinion about what the law is. A judgment or court's opinion explains how the court reached its decision, and it is a guide for later courts that need to decide similar cases. The case sets a precedent. The judgments of higher courts will commonly tell lower courts how they must decide a case on the same or very similar facts - if so, the precedent is said to be "binding". Even if the facts are different, the reasoning in the case may still be considered by the court as "persuasive". Even though courts follow precedent,

More about Common Law Essay

Open Document