Common Law

Common law, also known as case law or precedent, is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals, as opposed to statutes adopted through the legislative process or regulations issued by the executive branch.

A "common law system" is a legal system that gives great precedential weight to common law, on the principle that it is unfair to treat similar facts differently on different occasions. The body of precedent is called "common law" and it binds future decisions. In cases where the parties disagree on what the law is, a common law court looks to past precedential decisions of relevant courts. If a similar dispute has been resolved in the past, the court is bound to follow the reasoning used in the prior decision (this principle is known as stare decisis). If, however, the court finds that the current dispute is fundamentally distinct from all previous cases (called a "matter of first impression"), judges have the authority and duty to make law by creating precedent. Thereafter, the new decision becomes precedent, and will bind future courts. (See below here and here for contrasting systems.)

In practice, common law systems are considerably more complicated than the simplified system described above. The decisions of a court are binding only in a particular jurisdiction, and even within a given jurisdiction, some courts have more power than others. For example, in most jurisdictions, decisions by appellate courts are binding on lower courts in the same jurisdiction and on future decisions of the same appellate court, but decisions of lower courts are only non-binding persuasive authority. Interactions between common law, constitutional law, statutory law and regulatory law also give rise to considerable complexity. However, stare decisis, the principle that similar cases should be decided according to consistent principled rules so that they will reach similar results, lies at the heart of all common law systems.

One third of the world's population (approximately 2.3 billion people) live in common law jurisdictions or in systems mixed with civil law. Particularly common law is in England where it originated in the Middle Ages, and in countries that trace their legal heritage to England as former colonies of the British Empire, including India, the United States, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Canada, with the exception of Qu├ębec where a mix of civil law (on the provincial level) and common law (mostly on the federal level) is used, Malaysia, Ghana, Australia, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Singapore,Myanmar, Ireland, New Zealand, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Cyprus, Barbados, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Namibia, Botswana, Guyana and Israel.

Read more about Common Law:  Primary Connotations, History, Common Law Legal Systems in The Present Day, Scholarly Works

Other articles related to "common law, law, common":

Legal Practice - United States - Federal Rules 1938
... Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) were enacted in 1938, common law pleading was more formal, traditional, and particular in its phrases and requirements ... of equity by concentrating on the actual law and not the exact construction of pleas ... It tends to straddle the gulf between obsolete common-law pleading and modern notice pleading ...
Court Of King's Bench (England) - History - Reform
... the traditional superiority of the common law courts was challenged by ecclesiastical courts and the equitable jurisdiction of the Lord Chancellor, exercised through the Court of Chancery ... These courts were more attractive to the common lawyers because of their informality and the simple method used to arrest defendants. 1460 to 1540 there was a steep decline in the number of cases in the common law courts, coinciding with a sharp increase in cases in the newer courts ...
Law Of Pakistan - Influences
... Ali Jinnah (Quaid-e Azam)- the founder of Pakistan- while studying Law at Lincoln's Inn in London, he became an admirer of British liberalism ... It was the these influences that led to the Pakistani common law being based upon the common law of England and Wales ... figurhead of Pakistani politics and as a result Pakistan is now a common law system, with an adversarial court procedure and follows other common law practices such as judicial ...
Layland V. Ontario
... of marriage licenses and the federal government on the grounds that the acknowledged common law prohibition of same-sex couples from marriage violated their rights under the Charter at section 15 which ... on the ground that the concept of marriage at common law is limited to persons of opposite sex and denies that such limitation violates s ...

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