The Differences Between Common Law and Civil Law


Whether the legal system is common law or civil law, its primary aim is to provide protection for individual liberty. This has been achieved by separating the judicial power from the executive and legislative authority. This presumption of liberty is derived from the principle of natural law. The legal system has also legalized public services and utilities, and the personal realm.

Common law vs civil law

Despite its similarities, there are some key differences between common law and civil law. The most significant difference is the source of law.

While common law relies heavily on precedents, civil law has a much more limited role in creating the laws that govern a country. Judges refer to the decisions of previous courts and use these as the basis for interpreting the laws that are in effect in a particular case. However, this has little legal effect outside of a single case.

Separation of judicial power from executive and legislative authority

Among the many concepts that the founders of the United States added to their Constitution was the separation of judicial power from executive and legislative authority. The purpose of this doctrine was to prevent the concentration of power and the use of arbitrary authority.

The separation of powers is also sometimes referred to as the checks and balances system. Each branch of the government has its own powers and responsibilities. The executive is responsible for enacting laws and implementing them, while the legislative branch enacts and ratifies laws. The judicial branch is responsible for interpreting laws and administering justice.

Presumption in favor of liberty

Taking a broader perspective, liberty is a buzz word, but it’s not the only name in town. There’s no single liberty to which all Americans are entitled. That’s not to say liberty isn’t a worthwhile goal, just that it’s not a priority.

For starters, it’s a given that all Americans have the right to vote. But that doesn’t mean we can all get away with it. One has to be smart about the policing of our elected officials. A good example is the First Amendment, which protects a number of freedoms including the right to free speech, religion, and press.