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Civil law

Civil Law

Civil law is known as European Continental law or Romano-Germanic law. It is the principal legal system in the world that was inspired by Roman law and derived from Code of Justinian in addition to other sources such as Germanic, ecclesiastical, feudal, and local practices; as well as doctrinal strains like natural law, codification, and legislative positivism.

The purpose of civil law is to provide an accessible and written collection of laws that judges must follow. This legal system is the most widespread and effective in about 150 countries. In some countries have not resorted to the method of codifying law, but they have retained elements of Roman legal construction, "as a written reason", to be considered associated to the civil tradition. On the other hand, there are countries in which Roman influence was feebler but whose law, codified or not, rests on the concept of legislated law that in many ways resembles the systems of countries with a "pure" civil tradition.

In civil law, the authoritative sources are legislation and codifications in constitutions or statutes passed by government, and custom. In some countries, legal systems are established around one or various law codes that set the most important principles to conduct the law. For example, the most famous is the French Civil Code, even though the German Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch and the Swiss Civil Code are considered landmark events in legal history.

The civil law systems are different from the common law systems in the following aspects:
  • The substantive content of law.
  • The operative procedures of the law.
  • Legal terminology.
  • The sources of law.
  • The education and structure of the legal profession.
Scholars of comparative law and economists instigating the legal origins theory generally subdivide civil law into three different groups:
  • French civil law: in France, the Benelux countries, Italy, Spain and former colonies of those countries;
  • German civil law: in Germany, Austria, Croatia, Switzerland, Greece, Portugal, Turkey, Japan, South Korea and the Republic of China;
  • Scandinavian civil law: in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Finland and Iceland inherited the system from their neighbors.
Civil law is a tangential interest to the U.S. Supreme Court. The justices of the Supreme Court are results of the American common-law tradition, and, with few exceptions, these have not been familiar with civil-law sources or systems. Nevertheless, with the expansion of international private law, the increasing commercial significance of the European Union and Japan, and growing contacts among legal practitioners and legal elites across national limits, the Supreme Court must come to conditions with the civil law tradition that is the most extended and significant legal tradition in the modern world.