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What Is Common Law?

Most countries have derived their legal systems in such a manner that certain laws could supersede the decisions or judgments given by lower courts. It is also possible that this system of law is the basis of all other legal systems that exist within one jurisdiction. This legal system refers to common law.

Common law can have various meanings depending upon the situation. In terms of civil law, common law was an avenue wherein people who were harmed or suffered wrongful acts known as torts were given some form of restitution for whatever harm or suffering they endured. Common law may also refer to the precedent-based element in a legal system. This provides the basis for casuistry, which allows the reasonable judgment of cases based upon the circumstances and the laws that apply to such circumstances. Casuistry is referred to as case-based learning wherein previous cases serve as a guide or standard for evaluating cases whose circumstances are similar to that of previous cases. These past cases are referred to as paradigms, since they serve as a model or guide for evaluating a present case. Judges provide their opinions on cases they have tried, which eventually evolved into common law and the basis of casuistry.

Common law is further elaborated on in statues, which provide the reasoning and principle behind the common law. Statues undergo codification in order for common laws to be legitimately recognized and used, rather than creating a new law to address an issue that could be simply addressed by common law.


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