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Common law is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals (also called case law), rather than through legislative statutes or executive branch action. A "common law system" is a legal system that gives great precedential weight to common law,Washington Probate, "Estate Planning & Probate Glossary", Washington (State) Probate, s.v. "common law", [htm], 8 Dec. 2008: /www.wa-probate.com/Intro/Estate-Probate-Glossary.htm>, retrieved on 7 November 2009. 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 future cases, when parties disagree on what the law is, an idealized 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.

In practice, common law systems are considerably more complicated than the idealized 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.

Common law legal systems are in widespread use, particularly in England where it originated in the Middle Ages, and in nations that trace their legal heritage to England as former colonies of the British Empire, including the United Statesmarker, Singaporemarker, Pakistanmarker, Indiamarker, Ghanamarker, Cameroonmarker, Canadamarker, Ireland, New Zealandmarker, South Africa, Hong Kongmarker and Australia.

Primary connotations

The term common law has three main connotations and several historical meanings worth mentioning:

1. Common law as opposed to statutory law and regulatory law

This connotation distinguishes the authority that promulgated a law. For example, most areas of law in most Anglo-American jurisdictions include "statutory law" enacted by a legislature, "regulatory law" promulgated by executive branch agencies pursuant to delegation of rule-making authority from the legislature, and common law or "case law", i.e., decisions issued by courts (or quasi-judicial tribunals within agencies). This first connotation can be further differentiated into (a) pure common law arising from the traditional and inherent authority of courts to say what the law is, even in absence of an underlying statute, e.g., most criminal law and procedural law before the 20th century, and even today, most of contract law and the law of torts, and (b) court decisions that decide the fine boundaries and distinctions in law promulgated by other bodies, such as judicial interpretations of the Constitution, of statutes, and of regulations.

2. Common law legal systems as opposed to civil law legal systems

This connotation differentiates "common law" jurisdictions and legal systems from "civil law" or "code" jurisdictions. Common law systems place great weight on court decisions, which are considered "law" with the same force of law as statutes. By contrast, in civil law jurisdictions (the legal tradition that prevails in, or is combined with common law in, Europe and most non-Islamic, non-common law countries), judicial precedent is given less weight (which means that a judge deciding a given case has more freedom to interpret the text of a statute independently, and less predictably), and scholarly literature is given more. For example, the Napoleonic code expressly forbade French judges from pronouncing general principles of law.

As a rough rule of thumb, common law systems trace their history to England, while civil law systems trace their history to Roman law.

The contrast between common law and civil law systems is elaborated in Alternatives to common law systems, below.

3. Law as opposed to equity

This connotation differentiates "common law" (or just "law") from "equity". Before 1873, Englandmarker had two parallel court systems: courts of "law" that could only award money damages and recognized only the legal owner of property, and courts of "equity" that could issue injunctive relief (that is, a court order to a party to do something, give something to someone, or stop doing something) and recognized trusts of property. This split propagated to many of the colonies, including the United States (see "Reception Statutes," below). For most purposes, most jurisdictions, including the U.S. federal system and most states, have merged the two courts. Additionally, even before the separate courts were merged together, most courts were permitted to apply both law and equity, though under potentially different procedural law. Nonetheless, the historical distinction between "law" and "equity" remains important today when the case involves issues such as the following:
  • categorizing and prioritizing rights to property—for example, the same article of property often has a "legal title" and an "equitable title," and these two groups of ownership rights may be held by different people.
  • in the United States, determining whether the Seventh Amendment's right to a jury trial applies (a determination of a fact necessary to resolution of a "common law" claim) or whether the issue will be decided by a judge (issues of what the law is, and all issues relating to equity).
  • the standard of review and degree of deference given by an appellate tribunal to the decision of the lower tribunal under review (issues of law are reviewed de novo, that is, "as if new" from scratch by the appellate tribunal, while most issues of equity are reviewed for "abuse of discretion," that is, with great deference to the tribunal below).
  • the remedies available and rules of procedure to be applied.


4. Historical uses

In addition, there are several historical uses of the term that provide some background as to its meaning. The English Court of Common Pleas dealt with lawsuits in which the King had no interest, i.e. between commoners. Additionally, from at least the 11th century and continuing for several centuries after that, there were several different circuits in the royal court system, served by itinerant judges who would travel from town to town dispensing the King's justice. The term "common law" was used to describe the law held in common between the circuits and the different stops in each circuit. The more widely a particular law was recognized, the more weight it held, whereas purely local customs were generally subordinate to law recognized in a plurality of jurisdictions. These definitions are archaic, their relevance having dissipated with the development of the English legal system over the centuries, but they do explain the origin of the term.

Basic principles of common law

Common law adjudication

In a common law jurisdiction several stages of research and analysis are required to determine what "the law is" in a given situation. First, one must ascertain the facts. Then, one must locate any relevant statutes and cases. Then one must extract the principles, analogies and statements by various courts of what they consider important to determine how the next court is likely to rule on the facts of the present case. Later decisions, and decisions of higher courts or legislatures carry more weight than earlier cases and those of lower courts. Finally, one integrates all the lines drawn and reasons given, and determines what "the law is". Then, one applies that law to the facts.

Evolution of common law process to meet changing social needs and improved understanding

The common law is more malleable than statutory law. First, common law courts are not absolutely bound by precedent, but can (when extraordinarily good reason is shown) reinterpret and revise the law, without legislative intervention, to adapt to new trends in political, legal and social philosophy. Second, the common law evolves through a series of gradual steps, that gradually works out all the details, so that over a decade or more, the law can change substantially but without a sharp break, thereby reducing disruptive effects. In contrast to common law incrementalism, the legislative process is very difficult to get started, as legislatures tend to delay action until a situation is totally intolerable. For these reasons, legislative changes tend to be large, jarring and disruptive (sometimes positively, sometimes negatively, and sometimes with unintended consequences).

One example of the gradual change that typifies the common law is the gradual change in liability for negligence. For example, the traditional common law rule through most of the 19th century was that a plaintiff could not recover for a defendant's negligence unless the two were in privity of contract. Thus, only the immediate purchaser could recover for a product defect, and if a part was built up out of parts from parts manufacturers, the ultimate buyer could not recover for injury caused by a defect in the part. Winterbottom v. Wright, 10 M&W 109, 152 Eng.Rep. 402, 1842 WL 5519 (Exchequer of pleas 1842). In Winterbottom, the postal service had contracted with Wright to maintain its coaches. Winterbottom was a driver for the post. When the coach failed and injured Winterbottom, he sued Wright. The Winterbottom court recognized that there would be "absurd and outrageous consequences" if an injured person could sue any person peripherally involved, and knew it had to draw a line somewhere, a limit on the causal connection between the negligent conduct and the injury. The court looked to the contractual relationships, and held that liability would only flow as far as the person in immediate contract ("privity") with the negligent party.

A first exception to this rule arose in Thomas v. Winchester, 6 N.Y. 397 (N.Y. 1852) which held that mislabeling a poison as an innocuous herb, and then selling the mislabeled poison through a dealer who would be expected to resell it, put "human life in imminent danger." Thomas used this as a reason to create an exception to the "privity" rule. In Statler v. Ray Mfg. Co., 195 N.Y. 478, 480 (N.Y. 1909) held that a coffee urn manufacturer was liable to a person injured when the urn exploded, because the urn "was of such a character inherently that, when applied to the purposes for which it was designed, it was liable to become a source of great danger to many people if not carefully and properly constructed."

Yet the privity rule survived. In Cadillac Motor Car Co. v. Johnson, 221 F. 801 (2nd Cir. 1915) (decided by the federal appeals court for New York and several neighboring states), the court held that a car owner could not recover for injuries from a defective wheel, when the automobile owner only had a contract with the automobile dealer, not with the manufacturer, even though there was "no question that the wheel was made of dead and ‘dozy‘ wood, quite insufficient for its purposes."

Finally, in the famous case of MacPherson v. Buick Motor Co., 217 N.Y. 382, 111 N.E. 1050 (N.Y. 1916), Judge Benjamin Cardozo pulled a broader principle out of these predecessor cases. The facts were almost identical to Cadillac a year earlier: a wheel from a wheel manufacturer was sold to Buick, to a dealer, to MacPherson, and the wheel failed, injuring MacPherson. Judge Cardozo held:

We hold, then, that the principle of Thomas v. Winchester is not limited to poisons, explosives, and things of like nature, to things which in their normal operation are implements of destruction. If the nature of a thing is such that it is reasonably certain to place life and limb in peril when negligently made, it is then a thing of danger. Its nature gives warning of the consequences to be expected. If to the element of danger there is added knowledge that the thing will be used by persons other than the purchaser, and used without new tests then, irrespective of contract, the manufacturer of this thing of danger is under a duty to make it carefully. ... There must be knowledge of a danger, not merely possible, but probable.


Note that Cardozo's new "rule" exists in no prior case, but is inferable as a synthesis of the "thing of danger" principle stated in them, merely extending it to "foreseeable danger" even if "the purposes for which it was designed" were not themselves "a source of great danger." MacPherson takes some care to present itself as foreseeable progression, not a wild departure. Note that Judge Cardozo continues to adhere to the original principle of Winterbottom, that "absurd and outrageous consequences" must be avoided, and he does so by drawing a new line in the last sentence quoted above: "There must be knowledge of a danger, not merely possible, but probable." But while adhering to the underlying principle that some boundary is necessary, MacPherson overruled the prior common law by rendering the formerly dominant factor in the boundary, that is, the privity formality arising out of a contractual relationship between persons, totally irrelevant. Rather, the most important factor in the boundary would be the nature of the thing sold and the foreseeable uses that downstream purchasers would make of the thing.

This illustrates two crucial principles that are often not well understood by non-lawyers. (a) The law evolves, this evolution is in the hands of judges, and judges have "made law" for hundreds of years. (b) The reasons given for a decision are often more important in the long run than the outcome in a particular case. This is the reason that judicial opinions are usually quite long, and give rationales and policies that can be balanced with judgment in future cases, rather than the bright-line rules usually embodied in statutes.

Interaction of constitutional, statutory and common law

In common law legal systems (connotation 2), the common law (connotation 1) is crucial to understanding almost all important areas of law. For example, in England and Wales and in most states of the United States, the basic law of contracts, torts and property do not exist in statute, but only in common law (though there may be isolated modifications enacted by statute). In almost all areas of the law (even those where there is a statutory framework, such as contracts for the sale of goods, or the criminal law), legislature-enacted statutes generally give only terse statements of general principle, and the fine boundaries and definitions exist only in the common law (connotation 1). To find out what the precise law is that applies to a particular set of facts, one has to locate precedential decisions on the topic, and reason from those decisions by analogy. To consider but one example, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution states "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"—but interpretation (that is, determining the fine boundaries, and resolving the tension between the "establishment" and "free exercise" clauses) of each of the important terms was delegated by Article III of the Constitution to the judicial branch, so that the current legal boundaries of the Constitutional text can only be determined by consulting the common law.

In common law jurisdictions, legislatures operate under the assumption that statutes will be interpreted against the backdrop of the pre-existing common law and custom. For example, in most U.S. states, the criminal statutes are primarily codification of pre-existing common law. (Codification is the process of enacting a statute that collects and restates pre-existing law in a single document—when that pre-existing law is common law, the common law remains relevant to the interpretation of these statutes.) In reliance on this assumption, modern statutes often leave a number of terms and fine distinctions unstated—for example, a statute might be very brief, leaving the precise definition of terms unstated, under the assumption that these fine distinctions will be inherited from pre-existing common law. (For this reason, many modern American law schools teach the common law of crime as it stood in England in 1789, because that centuries-old English common law is a necessary foundation to interpreting modern criminal statutes.)

With the transition from English law, which had common law crimes, to the new legal system under the U.S. Constitution, which prohibited ex post facto laws at both the federal and state level, the question was raised whether there could be common law crimes in the United States. It was settled in the case of United States v. Hudson and Goodwin, . which decided that federal courts had no jurisdiction to define new common law crimes, and that there must always be a (constitutional) statute defining the offense and the penalty for it.

Still, many states retain selected common law crimes. For example, in Virginia, the definition of the conduct that constitutes the crime of robbery exists only in the common law, and the robbery statute only sets the punishment. Virginia Code section 1-200 establishes the continued existence and vitality of common law principles and provides that "The common law of England, insofar as it is not repugnant to the principles of the Bill of Rights and Constitution of this Commonwealth, shall continue in full force within the same, and be the rule of decision, except as altered by the General Assembly."

By contrast to statutory codification of common law, some statutes displace common law, for example to create a new cause of action that did not exist in the common law, or to legislatively overrule the common law. An example is the tort of wrongful death, which allows certain persons, usually a spouse, child or estate, to sue for damages on behalf of the deceased. There is no such tort in English common law; thus, any jurisdiction that lacks a wrongful death statute will not allow a lawsuit for the wrongful death of a loved one. Where a wrongful death statute exists, the compensation or other remedy available is limited to the remedy specified in the statute (typically, an upper limit on the amount of damages). Courts generally interpret statutes that create new causes of action narrowly – that is, limited to their precise terms—because the courts generally recognize the legislature as being supreme in deciding the reach of judge-made law unless such statute should violate some "second order" constitutional law provision (cf. judicial activism).

Where a tort is rooted in common law, then all traditionally recognized damages for that tort may be sued for, whether or not there is mention of those damages in the current statutory law. For instance, a person who sustains bodily injury through the negligence of another may sue for medical costs, pain, suffering, loss of earnings or earning capacity, mental and/or emotional distress, loss of quality of life, disfigurement and more. These damages need not be set forth in statute as they already exist in the tradition of common law. However, without a wrongful death statute, most of them are extinguished upon death.

In the United States, the power of the federal judiciary to review and invalidate unconstitutional acts of the federal executive branch is stated in the constitution, Article III sections 1 and 2: "The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. ... The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority..." The first famous statement of "the judicial power" was Marbury v. Madison, . Later cases interpreted the "judicial power" of Article III to establish the power of federal courts to consider or overturn any action of congress or of any state that conflicts with the constitution.

Overruling precedent—the limits of stare decisis

Most of the U.S. federal courts of appeal have adopted a rule under which, in the event of any conflict in decisions of panels (most of the courts of appeal almost always sit in panels of three), the earlier panel decision is controlling, and a panel decision may only be overruled by the court of appeals sitting en banc (that is, all active judges of the court) or by a higher court. In these courts, the older decision remains controlling when an issue comes up the third time.

Other courts, for example, the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals and the Supreme Court, always sit en banc, and thus the later decision controls. These courts essentially overrule all previous cases in each new case, and older cases survive only to the extent they do not conflict with newer cases. The interpretations of these courts - for example, Supreme Court interpretations of the constitution or federal statutes - are stable only so long as the older interpretation maintains the support of a majority of the court. The majority may persist through some combination of belief that the old decision is right, and that it is not sufficiently wrong to be overruled.

In the UK, the Practice Statement of 1966 allows the House of Lordsmarker, in certain circumstances, to overrule a previous decision made in the same House.

Common law as a foundation for commercial economies

This reliance on judicial opinion is a strength of common law systems, and is a significant contributor to the robust commercial systems in the United Kingdom and United States. Because there is common law to give reasonably precise guidance on almost every issue, parties (especially commercial parties) can predict whether a proposed course of action is likely to be lawful or unlawful. This ability to predict gives more freedom to come close to the boundaries of the law. For example, many commercial contracts are more economically efficient, and create greater wealth, because the parties know ahead of time that the proposed arrangement, though perhaps close to the line, is almost certainly legal. Newspapers, taxpayer-funded entities with some religious affiliation, and political parties can obtain fairly clear guidance on the boundaries within which their freedom of expression rights apply.

In contrast, in non-common-law countries, and jurisdictions with very weak respect for precedent (example, the U.S. Patent Office), fine questions of law are redetermined anew each time they arise, making consistency and prediction more difficult, and procedures far more protracted than necessary because parties cannot rely on written statements of law as reliable guides. In jurisdictions that do not have a strong allegiance to a large body of precedent, parties have less a priori guidance and must often leave a bigger "safety margin" of unexploited opportunities, and final determinations are reached only after far larger expenditures on legal fees by the parties.

This is the reason for the frequent choice of the law of the State of New York in commercial contracts. Commercial contracts throughout the world (for example, in commercial contracts in Japan, France and Germany, and from most of the other states of the United States) almost always include a "choice of law clause," and the law chosen is often the law of New York, even where the relationship of the parties and transaction to New York is quite attenuated. Because of its history as the nation's commercial center, New York common law has a depth and predictability not (yet) available in any other jurisdiction. Similarly, corporations are often formed under Delaware corporate law, and contracts relating to corporate law issues (merger and acquisitions of companies, rights of shareholders, etc.) include a Delaware choice of law clause, because of the deep body of law in Delaware on these issues. On the other hand, some other jurisdictions have sufficiently developed bodies of law so that parties have no real motivation to choose the law of a foreign jurisdiction (e.g., the United Kingdom and the state of California), but not yet so fully developed that parties with no relationship to the jurisdiction choose that law. The common theme in each case is that commercial parties seek predictability and simplicity in their contractual relations, and frequently choose the law of a common law jurisdiction with a well-developed body of common law in order to achieve that result.

This is not to say that common law is better in every situation. For example, civil law can be clearer than case law when the legislature has had the foresight and diligence to address the precise set of facts applicable to a particular situation. For that reason, civil law statutes tend to be somewhat more detailed than statutes written by common law legislatures – but, conversely, that tends to make the statute more difficult to read (the United States tax code is an example). As a practical matter, no civil law legislature can ever address the full spectrum of factual possibilities in the breadth, depth and detail of the case law of the common law courts of even a smaller jurisdiction.

History

The term "common law" originally derives from after the Norman Conquest. The "common law" was the law that the whole country had in common, rather than particular tribal laws that might apply between smaller communities. The doctrine of precedent developed under the inquisitorial system in Englandmarker during the 12th and 13th centuries, as the collective judicial decisions that were based in tradition, custom and precedent. Such forms of legal institutions and culture bear resemblance to those which existed historically in societies where precedent and custom have at times played a substantial role in the legal process, including Germanic law and Islamic law.

The form of reasoning used in common law is known as casuistry or case-based reasoning. The common law, as applied in civil cases (as distinct from criminal cases), was devised as a means of compensating someone for wrongful acts known as torts, including both intentional torts and torts caused by negligence, and as developing the body of law recognizing and regulating contracts. The type of procedure practiced in common law courts is known as the adversarial system; this is also a development of the common law.

Medieval English common law

Before the Norman conquest in 1066, justice was administered primarily by county courts, presided by the diocesan bishop and the sheriff, exercising both ecclesiastical and civil jurisdiction. Trial by jury began in these courts.

In 1154, Henry II became the first Plantagenet king. Among many achievements, Henry institutionalized common law by creating a unified system of law "common" to the country through incorporating and elevating local custom to the national, ending local control and peculiarities, eliminating arbitrary remedies and reinstating a jury system – citizens sworn on oath to investigate reliable criminal accusations and civil claims. The jury reached its verdict through evaluating common local knowledge, not necessarily through the presentation of evidence, a distinguishing factor from today's civil and criminal court systems.

Henry II developed the practice of sending judges from his own central court to hear the various disputes throughout the country. His judges would resolve disputes on an ad hoc basis according to what they interpreted the customs to be. The king's judges would then return to London and often discuss their cases and the decisions they made with the other judges. These decisions would be recorded and filed. In time, a rule, known as stare decisis (also commonly known as precedent) developed, which is where a judge would be bound to follow the decision of an earlier judge; he was required to adopt the earlier judge's interpretation of the law and apply the same principles promulgated by that earlier judge if the two cases had similar facts to one another. By this system of precedent, decisions 'stuck' and became ossified, and so the pre-Norman system of disparate local customs was replaced by an elaborate and consistent system of law that was common throughout the whole country, hence the name, "common law."

Henry II's creation of a powerful and unified court system, which curbed somewhat the power of canonical (church) courts, brought him (and England) into conflict with the church, most famously with Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Eventually, Becket was murdered inside Canterbury Cathedralmarker by four knights who believed themselves to be acting on Henry's behalf. Whether Henry actually intended to bring about the assassination of Becket is debatable, but there is no question that at the time of the murder, the two men were embroiled in a bitter dispute regarding the power of Royal Courts to exercise jurisdiction over former clergymen. The murder of the Archbishop gave rise to a wave of popular outrage against the King. Henry was forced to repeal the disputed laws and to abandon his efforts to hold church members accountable for secular crimes (see also Constitutions of Clarendon).

Judge-made common law operated as the primary source of law for several hundred years, before Parliament acquired legislative powers to create statutory law. It is important to understand that common law is the older and more traditional source of law, and legislative power is simply a layer applied on top of the older common law foundation. Since the 1100s, courts have had parallel and co-equal authority to make law - "legislating from the bench" is a traditional and essential function of courts, which was carried over into the U.S. system as an essential component of the "judicial power" specified by Article III of the U.S. constitution. There are legitimate debates on how the powers of courts and legislatures should be balanced. However, a view that courts lack law-making power is historically inaccurate and constitutionally unsupportable.

Influences of Roman law

The term "common law" is often used as a contrast to Roman-derived "civil law" (connotation 2), and the fundamental processes and forms of reasoning in the two are quite different. Nonetheless, there has been considerable cross-fertilization of ideas, while the two traditions and sets of foundational principles remain distinct.

By the time of the rediscovery of the Roman law in Europe in the 12th and 13th centuries, the common law had already developed far enough to prevent a Roman law reception as it occurred on the continent. However, the first common law scholars, most notably Glanvill and Bracton, as well as the early royal common law judges, had been well accustomed with Roman law. Often, they were clerics trained in the Roman canon law. One of the first and throughout its history one of the most significant treatises of the common law, Bracton’s De Legibus et Consuetudinibus Angliae (On the Laws and Customs of England), was heavily influenced by the division of the law in Justinian’s Institutes. The impact Roman law had decreased sharply after the age of Bracton, but the Roman divisions of actions into in rem and in personam used by Bracton had a lasting effect and laid the groundwork for a return of Roman law structural concepts in the 18th and 19th century. Signs of this can be found in Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, and Roman law ideas regained importance with the revival of academic law schools in the 19th century. As a result, today, the main systematic divisions of the law into property, contract, and tort (and to some extent unjust enrichment) can be found in the civil law as well as in the common law.

Possible influence of medieval Islamic law

Since the publication of legal scholar John Makdisi's "The Islamic Origins of the Common Law" in the North Carolina Law Review, there has been controversy over whether English common law was inspired by medieval Islamic law. Some scholars have argued that several fundamental common law institutions may have been adapted from similar legal institutions in medieval Islamic law and jurisprudence, and introduced to England after the Norman conquest of England by the Normans, who conquered and inherited the Islamic legal administration of the Emirate of Sicily (see Arab-Norman culture). In his 1999 paper, Makdisi drew comparisons between the "royal English contract protected by the action of debt" and the "Islamic Aqd", the "English assize of novel disseisin" and the "Islamic Istihqaq", and the "English jury" and the "Islamic Lafif" in classical Maliki jurisprudence, and argued that these institutions were transmitted to England by the Normans, "through the close connection between the Norman kingdoms of Roger II in Sicily—ruling over a conquered Islamic administration—and Henry II in England." Makdisi also argued that English legal institutions such as "the scholastic method, the license to teach," the "law schools known as Inns of Court" in England (which he asserts are parallel to Madrasas in Islam) and the "European commenda" (parallel to Islamic Qirad) may have also originated from Islamic law. He states that the methodology of legal precedent and reasoning by analogy (Qiyas) are also similar in both the Islamic and common law systems. Makdisi claims these similarities and influences suggest that Islamic law may have laid the foundations for "the common law as an integrated whole".

Other legal scholars such as Monica Gaudiosi, Gamal Moursi Badr and A. Hudson have argued that the English trust and agency institutions in common law, which were introduced by Crusaders, may have been adapted from the Islamic Waqf and Hawala institutions they came across in the Middle East. Dr. Paul Brand also notes parallels between the Waqf and the trusts used to establish Merton Collegemarker by Walter de Merton, who had connections with the Knights Templar. Brand also points out, however, that the Knights Templar were primarily concerned with fighting the Muslims rather than learning from them, making it less likely that they had knowledge of Muslim legal institutions. It is also worth noting that transferring property to another for the "use" of another developed largely in response to the requirements of feudal inheritance law. Trust law, in particular, is a creature of equity, which derived from the parallel jurisdiction of the Lord Chancellor to decide matters independently to the Royal Courts.

Propagation of the common law to the colonies and Commonwealth by Reception Statutes

As colonies gained independence from Britain, most adopted British common law as the basis for their legal systems. In most cases, newly-independent colonies received common law precedent as of the date independence as the default law, to the extent not explicitly rejected by the newly-freed colony's founding documents or government.

For example, following the American Revolution in 1776, one of the first legislative acts undertaken by each of the newly-independent states was to adopt a "reception statute" that gave legal effect to the existing body of British common law to the extent that American legislation or the Constitution had not explicitly rejected British law. Some states enacted reception statutes as legislative statutes, while other states received the English common law through provisions of the state's constitution, and some by court decision. British traditions such as the monarchy were rejected by the U.S. Constitution, but many British common law traditions such as habeas corpus, jury trials, and various other civil liberties were adopted in the United States. Significant elements of British common law prior to 1776 still remain in effect in many jurisdictions in the United States, because they have never been rejected by American courts or legislatures.

For example, the New York Constitution of 1777 provides that:

Alexander Hamilton emphasized in The Federalist that this New York constitutional provision expressly made the common law subject “to such alterations and provisions as the legislature shall from time to time make concerning the same.” Thus, even when reception was effected by a constitution, the common law was still subject to alteration by a legislature's statute.

One could note a certain irony: one of the first acts of many of the newly-independent states was to adopt the law of the foreign sovereign from whom independence had just been gained. But this is one more demonstration of the point mentioned above (Commercial economies), that the newly-independent states recognized the importance of a predictable and established body of law to govern the conduct of citizens and businesses, and therefore adopted the richest available source of law.

The Northwest Ordinance, which was approved by the Congress of the Confederation in 1787, guaranteed "judicial proceedings according to the course of the common law." Nathan Dane, the primary author of the Northwest Ordinance, viewed this provision as a default mechanism in the event that federal or territorial statutes were silent about a particular matter; he wrote that if "a statute makes an offence, and is silent as to the mode of trial, it shall be by jury, according to the course of the common law.” In effect, the provision operated as a reception statute, giving legal authority to the established common law in the vast territories where no states had yet been established.

Over time, as new states were formed from federal territories, these territorial reception statutes became obsolete and were re-enacted as state law. For example, a reception statute enacted by legislation in the state of Washington requires that "[t]he common law, so far as it is not inconsistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States, or of the state of Washington nor incompatible with the institutions and condition of society in this state, shall be the rule of decision in all the courts of this state." In this way, the common law was eventually incorporated into the legal systems of every state except Louisianamarker (which inherited a civil law system from its Frenchmarker colonizers before the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, adopting a code similar to but not directly based on the Napoleonic Code of 1804).

The pattern was repeated in many other other former British colonies as they gained independence from the United Kingdom. Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Belize, India, and various Caribbean and African nations have adopted English common law through reception statutes. For example, Hong Kong's reception statute exists in Chapter I, Article 8 of the Basic Law of Hong Kong:

Decline of Latin maxims, and adding flexibility to stare decisis

Well into the 19th century, ancient maxims played a large role in common law adjudication. Many of these maxims had originated in Roman Law, migrated to England before the introduction of Christianity to the British Isles, and were typically stated in Latin even in English decisions. Many examples are familiar in everyday speech even today, "One cannot be a judge in one's own cause" (see Dr. Bonham's Case), rights are reciprocal to obligations, and the like. Judicial decisions and treatises of the 17th and 18th centuries, such at those of Lord Chief Justice Edward Coke, presented the common law as a collection of such maxims. See also Thomas Jefferson's letter to Thomas Cooper.

Reliance on old maxims and rigid adherence to precedent, no matter how old or ill-considered, was under full attack by the late 19th century. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. in his famous article, " The Path of the Law," 10 Harvard L.Rev. 457, 469 (1897), commented, "It is revolting to have no better reason for a rule of law than that so it was laid down in the time of Henry IV. It is still more revolting if the grounds upon which it was laid down have vanished long since, and the rule simply persists from blind imitation of the past." Justice Holmes noted that study of maxims might be sufficient for "the man of the present," but "the man of the future is the man of statistics and the master of economics." In an 1880 lecture at Harvard, he noted "The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience. The felt necessities of the time, the prevalent moral and political theories, intuitions of public policy, avowed or unconscious, even the prejudices which judges share with their fellow men, have had a good deal more to do than the syllogism in determining the rules by which men should be governed. The law embodies the story of a nation's development through many centuries, and it cannot be dealt with as if it contained only the axioms and corollaries of a book of mathematics."

In the early 20th century, Louis Brandeis, later appointed to the Supreme Court, became noted for his use of policy-driving facts and economics in his briefs, and extensive appendices presenting facts that lead a judge to the advocate's conclusion. By this time, briefs relied more on facts than on hoary Latin maxims.

Reliance on old maxims is now deprecated. Acree v. Republic of Iraq, 370 F.3d 41 (D.C. Cir. 2004) (Roberts, J., concurring). Common law decisions today reflect both precedent and policy judgment drawn from economics, the social sciences, business, decisions of foreign courts, and the like. The degree to which these external factors should influence adjudication is the subject of active debate, but that they do is a fact of modern legal life.

1870 through 20th century, and the procedural merger of law and equity

As early as the 15th century, it became the practice that litigants who felt they had been cheated by the common-law system would petition the King in person. For example, they might argue that an award of damages (at common law) was not sufficient redress for a trespasser occupying their land, and instead request that the trespasser be evicted. From this developed the system of equity, administered by the Lord Chancellor, in the courts of chancery. By their nature, equity and law were frequently in conflict and litigation would frequently continue for years as one court countermanded the other, even though it was established by the 17th century that equity should prevail. A famous example is the fictional case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce in Bleak House, by Charles Dickens.

In England, courts of law and equity were combined by the Judicature Acts of 1873 and 1875, with equity being supreme in case of conflict.

In the United Statesmarker, parallel systems of law (providing money damages, with cases heard by a jury upon either party's request) and equity (fashioning a remedy to fit the situation, including injunctive relief, heard by a judge) survived well into the 20th century. The United States federal courts procedurally separated law and equity: the same judges could hear either kind of case, but a given case could only pursue causes in law or in equity, and the two kinds of cases proceeded under different procedural rules. This became problematic when a given case required both money damages and injunctive relief. In 1937, the new Federal Rules of Civil Procedure combined law and equity into one form of action, the "civil action." Fed.R.Civ.P. 2. The distinction survives to the extent that issues that were "common law" as of 1791 (the date of adoption of the Seventh Amendment) are still subject to the right of either party to request a jury, and "equity" issues are decided by a judge.

Alabamamarker, Delawaremarker, Mississippimarker, New Jerseymarker, Tennesseemarker still have separate courts of law and equity, for example, the Court of Chancery. In many states there are separate divisions for law and equity within one court.

Contrasts between common law and civil law systems

Adversarial system vs. inquisitorial system

Common law courts tend to use an adversarial system, in which two sides present their cases to a neutral judge. In contrast, in civil law systems, inquisitorial system proceedings, where an examining magistrate serves two roles by developing the evidence and arguments for one and the other side during the investigation phase.

The examining magistrate then presents the dossier detailing his or her findings to the president of the bench that will adjudicate on the case where it has been decided that a trial shall be conducted. Therefore the president of the bench's view of the case is not neutral and may be biaised while conducting the trial after the reading of the dossier. Unlike the common law proceedings, the president of the bench in the inquisitorial system is not merely an umpire and is entitled to directly interview the witnesses or express comments during the trial, as long as he or she does not express his or her view on the guilt of the accused.

The proceeding in the inquisitorial system is essentially by writing. Most of the witnesses would have given evidence in the investigation phase and such evidence will be contained in the dossier under the form of police reports. In the same way, the accused would have already put his or her case at the investigation phase but he or she will be free to change his evidence at trial. Whether the accused pleads guilty or not, a trial will be conducted. Unlike the adversarial system, the conviction and sentence to served (if any) will be released by the trial jury together with the president of the trial bench, following their common deliberation.

There are many exceptions in both directions. For example, most proceedings before U.S. federal and state agencies are inquisitorial in nature, at least the initial stages (e.g., a patent examiner, a social security hearing officer, etc.) even though the law to be applied is developed through common law processes.

Contrasting role of treatises and academic writings in common law and civil law systems

The role of the legal academy presents a significant "cultural" difference between common law (connotation 2) and civil law jurisdictions.

In common law jurisdictions, legal treatises compile common law decisions, and state overarching principles that (in the author's opinion) explain the results of the cases. However, in common law jurisdictions, treatises are not the law, and lawyers and judges tend to use these treatises as only "finding aids" to locate the relevant cases. In common law jurisdictions, scholarly work is seldom cited as authority for what the law is. When common law courts rely on scholarly work, it is almost always only for factual findings, policy justification, or the history and evolution of the law, but the court's legal conclusion is reached through analysis of relevant statutes and common law, seldom scholarly commentary.

In contrast, in civil law jurisdictions, the writings of law professors are given significant weight by courts. In part, this is because civil law decisions traditionally were very brief, sometimes no more than a paragraph stating who wins and who loses. The rationale has to come from somewhere else, and the academy often filled that role. As civil law court decisions move in the direction of common law reasoning, it is possible that this balance may shift.

Common law legal systems in the present day

[[Image:LegalSystemsOfTheWorldMap.png|thumb|300px|Legal Systems of the World

]]The common law constitutes the basis of the legal systems of: England and Wales, Northern Ireland, Ireland, federal law in the United States and the law of individual U.S. states (except Louisiana), federal law throughout Canada and the law of the individual provinces and territories (except Quebec), Australia (both federal and individual states), New Zealand, South Africa, India, Malaysia, Brunei, Pakistan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and many other generally English-speaking countries or Commonwealth countries (except Maltamarker and Scotlandmarker). Essentially, every country which has been colonised at some time by England, Great Britainmarker, or the United Kingdommarker uses common law except those that had been formerly colonised by other nations, such as Quebec (which follows French law to some extent), South Africa and Sri Lanka (which follow Roman Dutch law), where the prior civil law system was retained to respect the civil rights of the local colonists. Indiamarker's system of common law is also a mixture of English law and the local Hindu law, except in the state of Goamarker which retains the Portuguese civil code.

Scotland (1707)

Scotlandmarker is often said to use the civil law system but in fact it has a unique system that combines elements of an uncodified civil law dating back to the Corpus Juris Civilis with an element of common law long predating the Treaty of Union with England in 1707 (see Legal institutions of Scotland in the High Middle Ages). Scots common law differs in that the use of precedents is subject to the courts' seeking to discover the principle which justifies a law rather than to search for an example as a precedent and that the principles of natural justice and fairness have always formed a source of Scots Law. Comparable pluralistic legal systems operate in Quebecmarker, Louisianamarker and South Africa.

States of the United States (1775 on)

The state of New Yorkmarker, which also has a civil law history from its Dutch colonial days, also began a codification of its law in the 19th century. The only part of this codification process that was considered complete is known as the Field Code applying to civil procedure. The original colony of New Netherlands was settled by the Dutch and the law was also Dutch. When the English captured pre-existing colonies they continued to allow the local settlers to keep their civil law. However, the Dutch settlers revolted against the English and the colony was recaptured by the Dutch. When the English finally regained control of New Netherland they forced, as a punishment unique in the history of the British Empire, the English common law upon all the colonists, including the Dutch. This was problematic, as the patroonsystem of land holding, based on the feudal system and civil law, continued to operate in the colony until it was abolished in the mid-nineteenth century. The influence of Roman Dutch law continued in the colony well into the late nineteenth century. The codification of a law of general obligations shows how remnants of the civil law tradition in New Yorkmarker continued on from the Dutch days.

The U.S. state of Californiamarker has a system based on common law, but it has codified the law in the manner of the civil law jurisdictions. The reason for the enactment of the codes in California in the nineteenth century was to replace a pre-existing system based on Spanishmarker civil law with a system based on common law, similar to that in most other states. California and a number of other Western states, however, have retained the concept of community property derived from civil law. The California courts have treated portions of the codes as an extension of the common-law tradition, subject to judicial development in the same manner as judge-made common law. (Most notably, in the case Li v. Yellow Cab Co., 13 Cal.3d 804 (1975), the California Supreme Courtmarker adopted the principle of comparative negligence in the face of a California Civil Code provision codifying the traditional common-law doctrine of contributory negligence.)

United States federal system (1789 and 1938)

The United Statesmarker federal government (as opposed to the states) has a variant on a common law system. United States federal courts only act as interpreters of statutes and the constitution (to elaborate and precisely define the broad language, connotation 1(b) above), but, unlike state courts, do not act as an independent source of common law (connotation 1(a) above). Before 1938, the federal courts, like almost all other common law courts, decided the law on any issue where the relevant legislature (either the U.S. Congress or state legislature, depending on the issue), had not acted, by looking to courts in the same system, that is, other federal courts, even on issues of state law, and even where there was no express grant of authority from Congress or the Constitution. In 1938, the U.S. Supreme Court in Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938), overruled earlier precedent, and held "There is no federal general common law," thus confining the federal courts to act only as interpreters of law originating elsewhere. E.g., Texas Industries v. Radcliff, (without an express grant of statutory authority, federal courts cannot create rules of intuitive justice, for example, a right to contribution from co-conspirators). Post-1938, federal courts deciding issues that arise under state law are required to defer to state court interpretations of state statutes, or reason what a state's highest court would rule if presented with the issue, or to certify the question to the state's highest court for resolution. Later courts have limited Erie slightly, to create a few situations where United States federal courts are permitted to create federal common law rules without express statutory authority, for example, where a federal rule of decision is necessary to protect uniquely federal interests. See, e.g., Clearfield Trust Co. v. United States, (giving federal courts the authority to fashion common law rules with respect to issues of federal power, in this case negotiable instruments backed by the federal government); see also International News Service v. Associated Press, 248 U.S. 215 (1918) (creating a cause of action for misappropriation of "hot news" that lacks any statutory grounding, but that is one of the handful of federal common law actions that survives today). Except on Constitutional issues, Congress is free to legislatively overrule federal courts' common law.

Canada (1867)

All but one of the provinces of Canadamarker use a common law system (the exception being Quebec, which uses a civil law system for issues arising within provincial jurisdiction). Criminal law, which is uniform throughout Canada, is based on the common law in all provinces. Canadian federal statutes, when they refer to matters that are within provincial jurisdiction, such as property ownership, must use the terminology of both the common law and civil law for those matters; this is referred to as legislative bijuralism..

Nicaragua

Nicaragua's legal system also is a mixture of the English Common Law and the Civil Law through the influence of British administration of the Eastern half of the country from the mid-1600s until about 1905, the William Walker period from about 1855 through 1857, USA interventions/occupations during the period from 1909 to 1933, the influence of USA institutions during the Somoza family administrations (1933 through 1979) and the considerable importation between 1979 and the present of USA culture and institutions.

Israel (1948)

Israel has a mixed system of common law and civil law. While Israeli law is undergoing codification, its basic principles resemble those of British and American law, namely: the role of courts in creating the body of law and the authority of the supreme courtmarker in overturning legislative and executive decisions, as well as employing the adversarial system.

Alternatives to common law systems

The main alternative to the common law system is the civil law system, which is used in Continental Europe, and most of the rest of the world. The contrast between civil law and common law legal systems has become increasingly blurred, with the growing importance of jurisprudence (almost like case law but in name) in civil law countries, and the growing importance of statute law and codes in common law countries.

Examples of common law being replaced by statute or codified rule in the United States include criminal law (since 1812, U.S. courts have held that criminal law must be embodied in statute if the public is to have fair notice), commercial law (the Uniform Commercial Code in the early 1960s) and procedure (the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in the 1930s and the Federal Rules of Evidence in the 1970s). But note that in each case, the statute sets the general principles, but the common law process determines the scope and application of the statute.

An example of convergence from the other direction is shown in Srl CILFIT and Lanificio di Gavardo SpA v Ministry of Health (Corte suprema di Cassazione, Italy, 1982), in which Italy's Supreme Court held that questions it has already answered need not be resubmitted. This brought in a distinctly common law principle into an essentially civil law jurisdiction. As the Italian courts continue to follow this precedent and assume that the Supreme Court's rulings have precedential value, the distance between civil law and common law jurisdictions is shrinking.

The former Soviet Bloc and other Socialist countries used a Socialist law system (some of them use civil law system, for example, Lithuania).

Scholarly works

Lord Chief Justice Edward Coke, a seventeenth-century Englishmarker jurist and Member of Parliament, wrote several legal texts that formed the basis for the modern common law, with lawyers in both England and America learning their law from his Institutes and Reports until the end of the eighteenth century. His works are still cited by common law courts around the world.

The next definitive historical treatise on the common law is Commentaries on the Laws of England, written by Sir William Blackstone and first published in 1765 - 1769. Since 1979, a facsimile edition of that first edition has been available in four paper-bound volumes. Today it has been superseded in the English part of the United Kingdommarker by Halsbury's Laws of England that covers both common and statutory English law.

While he was still on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Courtmarker, and before being named to the U.S.marker Supreme Courtmarker, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. published a short volume called The Common Law which remains a classic in the field. Unlike Blackstone and the Restatements, Holmes' book only briefly discusses what the law is; rather, Holmes describes the common law process. Law professor John Chipman Gray's The Nature and Sources of the Law, an examination and survey of the common law, is also still commonly read in U.S. law schools.

In the United States, Restatements of various subject matter areas (Contracts, Torts, Judgments, etc.), edited by the American Law Institute, collect the common law for the area. The ALI Restatements are often cited by American courts and lawyers for propositions of uncodified common law, and are considered highly-persuasive authority, just below binding precedential decisions. The Corpus Juris Secundum is an encyclopedia whose main content is a compendium of the common law and its variations throughout the various state jurisdictions.

Scots common law covers matters including murder and theft, and has sources in custom, in legal writings and previous court decisions. The legal writings used are called Institutional Texts and come mostly from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Examples include Craig, Jus Feudale (1655) and Stair, The Institutions of the Law of Scotland (1681).

Notes

  1. Charles Arnold-Baker, The Companion to British History, s.v. "English Law" (London: Routledge, 2001), 386.
  2. Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803) ("It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is. Those who apply the rule to particular cases, must of necessity expound and interpret that rule. If two laws conflict with each other, the courts must decide on the operation of each.")
  3. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/188090/English-law ; British History: Middle Ages
  4. India, being a common law country
  5. The Common Law in the World: the Australian Experience
  6. Garner 177
  7. Salmond 32
  8. Garner 178
  9. From Decree of March 5, 1803: "5. The judges are forbidden to pronounce, by way of general and legislative determination, on the causes submitted to them." But: "4. The judge who shall refuse to determine under pretext of the silence, obscurity, or insufficiency of the law, shall be liable to be proceeded against as guilty of a refusal of justice."
  10. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure, Rule 2 ("There is one form of action—the civil action.") (1938)
  11. Friedman xix
  12. "In Suits at common law ... the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise reexamined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law."
  13. e.g., Ex parte Holt, 19 USPQ2d 1211, 1214 (Bd. Patent App. & Interf. 1991) (explaining the hierarchy of precedent binding on tribunals of the United States Patent Office)
  14. The beneficial qualities of the common law's incrementalist evolution was most eloquently expressed by the future Lord Mansfield, then Solicitor General Murray, in the case of Omychund v. Barker, who contended that "a statute very seldom can take in all cases; therefore the common law, that works itself pure by rules drawn from the fountain of justice, is for that reason superior to an act of parliament." I Atk. 21, 33, 26 Eng. Rep. 15, 22-23 (Ch. 1744)
  15. E.g., Uniform Commercial Code, Article 2, on Contracts for the Sales of Goods
  16. Model Penal Code as adopted in several states, for example, New York's Penal Law
  17. Graham Hughes, Common Law Systems, § VII, collected in Alan B. Morrison, Fundamentals of American Law, p. 23-24, Oxford University Press (1996).
  18. To consider one example, Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971), resolves one part of the tension between the "establishment" and "free exercise" clauses of the First Amendment with a three part test: a government-sponsored message violates the Establishment Clause if: (1) it does not have a secular purpose; (2) its principal or primary effect advances or inhibits religion; or (3) it creates an excessive entanglement of the government with religion..
  19. Johnson v. Commonwealth, 209 Va. 291, 293, 163 S.E.2d 570, ___ (1968)
  20. E.g., South Corp. v. United States, 690 F.2d 1368 (Fed. Cir. 1982) (en banc in relevant part) (explaining order of precedent binding on the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit); Bonner v. City of Prichard, Alabama, 661 F.2d 1206 (11th Cir. 1981) (en banc) (after the Eleventh Circuit was split off from the Fifth Circuit, adopting precedent of Fifth Circuit as binding until overruled by the Eleventh Circuit en banc: "The [pre-split] Fifth followed the absolute rule that a prior decision of the circuit (panel or en banc) could not be overruled by a panel but only by the court sitting en banc. The Eleventh Circuit decides in this case that it chooses, and will follow, this rule."); Ex parte Holt, 19 USPQ2d 1211, 1214 (Bd. Patent App. & Interf. 1991) (explaining the hierarchy of precedent binding on tribunals of the United States Patent Office).
  21. 83 Cr App R 191, 73 Cr App R 266
  22. See, e.g., Yeo Tiong Min, " A Note on Some Differences in English Law, New York Law, and Singapore Law" (2006).
  23. see Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., The Common Law, Lecture I, sec. 2, "In Massachusetts today…there are some (rules) which can only be understood by reference to the infancy of procedure among the German tribes."
  24. William Burnham, Introduction to the Law and Legal System of the United States, 4th ed. (St. Paul, Thomson West, 2006), 42.
  25. E.g., MacPherson v. Buick Motor Co., 217 N.Y. 382, 111 N.E. 1050 (N.Y. 1916) (discussed above, adjudicating the tort of negligence that existed in no statute, and expanding the law to cover parties that had never been addressed by statute); Hadley v Baxendale (1854) 9 Exch 341 (defining a new rule of contract law with no basis in statute); Marbury v. Madison, 137 5 U.S. 137 (1803) ("It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is."); Alexander Hamilton, THE FEDERALIST, Nos. 78 and 81 (J. Cooke ed. 1961), 521-530, 541-55 ("The interpretation of the laws is the proper and peculiar province of the courts. A constitution, is, in fact, and must be regarded by the judges, as a fundamental law. It therefore belongs to them to ascertain its meaning, as well as the meaning of any particular act proceeding from the legislative body."); see rule against perpetuities for a judicially-created law originating in 1682 that governs the validity of trusts and future interests in real property, Rule in Shelley's Case for a rule created by judges in 1366 or before, and life estate and fee simple for rules of real property ownership that were judicially created in the late 1100's as the crown began to give law-making power to courts.
  26. E.g., R. C. van Caenegem, The Birth of the English Common Law 89-92 (1988).
  27. E.g., Peter Birks, Grant McLeod, Justinian's Institutes 7 (1987).
  28. E.g., George E. Woodbine (ed.), Samuel E. Thorne (transl.), Bracton on the Laws and Customs of England, Vol. I (Introduction) 46 (1968); Carl Güterbock, Bracton and his Relation to the Roman Law 35-38 (1866).
  29. Stephen P. Buhofer, Structuring the Law: The Common Law and the Roman Institutional System, Swiss Review of International and European Law (SZIER/RSDIE) 5/2007, 24 (download at http://www.szier.ch - archive).
  30. Peter Stein, Continental Influences on English Legal thought, 1600 - 1900, in Peter Stein, The Character and Influence of the Roman Civil Law 223 et seq. (1988).
  31. See generally Stephen P. Buhofer, Structuring the Law: The Common Law and the Roman Institutional System, Swiss Review of International and European Law (SZIER/RSDIE) 5/2007 (download at http://www.szier.ch - archive).
  32. Glenn Lammi and James Chang, " Michigan High Court Ruling Offers Positive Guidance on Challenges to Tort Reform Laws" (December 17, 2004).
  33. Milestones! 200 Years of American Law: Milestones in Our Legal History By Jethro Koller Lieberman Published by West, 1976 Original from the University of California Digitized Jun 11, 2008 ISBN 0195198816, 9780195198812, pg. 16[1]
  34. New York Constitution of 1777 via Avalon Project at Yale Law School.
  35. Alexander Hamilton, Federalist 84 (1788).
  36. Nathan Dane, 6 General Abridgment and Digest of American Law §182, art. 5, 230 (Cummings, Hilliard & Co. 1823).
  37. Washington Legal Foundation v. Legal Foundation of Washington, 271 F.3d 835 (9th Cir. 2001).
  38. Chapter I, Section 8 of Hong Kong Basic Law
  39. Salmond 34
  40. E.g., Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 517 U.S. 370, 376 (1996) ("[W]e [the U.S. Supreme Court] have understood that the right of trial by jury thus preserved is the right which existed under the English common law when the Amendment was adopted. In keeping with our longstanding adherence to this 'historical test,' we ask, first, whether we are dealing with a cause of action that either was tried at law at the time of the founding or is at least analogous to one that was. If the action in question belongs in the law category, we then ask whether the particular trial decision must fall to the jury in order to preserve the substance of the common-law right as it existed in 1791." citations and quotations omitted, holding that interpretation of the scope of a patent had no analogy in 1790, and is thus a question to be decided by a judge, not a jury)
  41. At least in the U.S., practicing lawyers tend to use "law professor" or "law review article" as a pejorative to describe a person or work that is insufficiently grounded in reality or practicality - every young lawyer is admonished repeatedly by senior lawyers not to write "law review articles," but instead to focus on the facts of the case and the practical effects of a given outcome.
  42. Swift v. Tyson, 41 U.S. 1 (1842). In Swift, the United States Supreme Court had held that federal courts hearing cases brought under their diversity jurisdiction (allowing them to hear cases between parties from different states) had to apply the statutory law of the states, but not the common law developed by state courts. Instead, the Supreme Court permitted the federal courts to make their own common law based on general principles of law. Erie v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64 (1938). Erie over-ruled Swift v. Tyson, and instead held that federal courts exercising diversity jurisdiction had to use all of the same substantive law as the courts of the states in which they were located. As the Erie Court put it, there is no "general federal common law", the key word here being general. This history is elaborated in federal common law.
  43. City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507 (1997) (invalidating the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, in which Congress had attempted to redefine the court's jurisdiction to decide constitutional issues); Milwaukee v. Illinois, 451 U.S. 304 (1981)
  44. [2]


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