Legal Systems

Legal Systems

The legal system of a state is the body of rules, including principles, procedures, and processes used in classification, interpretation, and enforcement of laws. There are dozens of legal systems in the world. However, five major legal systems are dominant across almost all countries. They include civil law, common law, customary law, religious law, and mixed law system.

  • Civil law system – It is the most widely recognized legal system all over the world and is practiced in different forms by approximately 150 states. Civil law originated from the Roman legal traditions and was introduced by the Roman Emperors. The primary distinguishing feature of civil laws is that they are systematically organized in written codes. Codification is the methodical compilation of laws into a single document, such as the constitution and statutes, after enactment through legislation. These legal codes are subject to change are often updated over time.
  • Common-Law System – Common law is also quite prevalent in many countries and is applied by approximately 80 countries all over the world. Common law is derived from precedent judicial decisions that have been made, although some have statutes. It is based on the doctrine of stare decisis, which translates to “let the decision stand.” This means that the rulings by common-law court judges are bound by rules and decisions in precedent cases.  Unlike other forms of laws, which are investigatory, common law is adversarial. This means that the ruling heavily relies on facts and principles surrounding a case. All states in the US use the common law legal system except Louisiana, which uses a blend of the civil and common law.
  • Customary Law System – These are laws derived from the behaviors and customs of a given society. They are organized and accepted as the legal requirements and the rule of conduct that regulate social relations between members of the community. Customary laws do not exist in written form and are passed from generation to generation by word of mouth. Customary law often exists in a mixed legal system where they are combined with other forms, such as common law and civil law.
  • Religious Law System – The religious law system is developed from the sacred texts, beliefs, and traditions within the context of a given religious group. This can be seen in many Islamic nations where the Islamic law which is mostly based on the Quran

However, most counties employ the mixed legal system, which uses a combination of two or more of the above legal systems.