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Deciphering the Difference between Civil and Common Law

Societies across the globe follow either civil or common law. In some cases, a country could choose to use the two. The common law originated in England in the Middle Ages and was practiced by the British in the countries they colonized. The civil law, on the other hand, emerged in continental Europe around the same time and was equally on their colonies such as Portugal. So what does each of these laws entail?
The legal system

The civil law system is based on codes and statutes written down and composed into a constitution which serves as a reference. It also contains the procedural, substantive, and the penal codes. The procedural code states what activities constitute a criminal act. In this regard, the substantive codes are used to establish what is required of the criminal offense, for example, civil prosecution. The penal code shows the proper penalties to specific crimes. Based on this, the public has to be explicitly made aware of the laws so as to be aware of the consequences of breaking them. The oldest civil law is the Roman law, which lasted long after the decline of the Roman Empire.
On the other hand, the common law is not coded and does not require the legal rules and statutes to be compiled into a constitution. It is based on precedent, which refers to judicial decisions made by judges or tribunals over a similar case. Here, the precedents are recorded and documented in collections known as reports or yearbooks. During a case, the presiding judge goes through the yearbooks, and punishment is meted out based on past happenings. It is, however, sometimes considered adversarial since the decision-making process is influenced by a jury or ordinary people with no legal training.


The jury and judges’ roles
The role of the judge in a civil law setting is to establish facts through cross-examination of the witnesses and bring the charges based on the legal codes. The judge’s duty is to ensure that the law triumphs over passion. In the case of civil law, the jury does not have to come up with a unanimous decision. The jury is almost never involved in civil actions but in criminal cases.

In a common law setting, the judge’s role is to referee between the two opposing parties.They play a significant role in the setting of the laws as their decision will be referenced in the future. The jury is composed of lay people, and their duty is to weigh the evidence presented to them. The majority have to agree on who is at fault.
The civil law employs an inquisitorial method where the judge asks the questions. This is contrary to a common law setting where the questions are posed by the lawyers. In the former, the lawyers are only present to present a differing point of view on the evidence the court finds.

Though the two law systems are different, they have statutes and case laws. They, however, use different approaches to resolving issues.The countries in which common law is practiced include India, Canada, England and the United States. Civil law is used in countries such as China, France. Germany and Japan. In case of any legal matter, Winder Lawyers are always at your service.