Legal systems of the world

Legal systems of the world

The three major legal systems of the world today consist of civil law, common law and religious law. However, each country (see State law) often develops variations on each system or incorporates many other features into the system.

Civil law

Civil law is the most widespread system of law in the world. It is also sometimes known as "Continental European law". The central source of law that is recognised as authoritative are codifications in a constitution or statute passed by legislature, to amend a code. Civil law systems mainly derive from the Roman Empire, and more particularly, the "Corpus Juris Civilis" issued by the Emperor Justinian ca. 529AD. This was an extensive reform of the law in the Byzantine Empire, bringing it together into codified documents. Civil law was also partly influenced by religious laws such as Canon law and Islamic law.citation|title=Islamic Law: Its Relation to Other Legal Systems|first=Gamal Moursi|last=Badr|journal=The American Journal of Comparative Law|volume=26|issue=2 [Proceedings of an International Conference on Comparative Law, Salt Lake City, Utah, February 24-25, 1977] |date=Spring, 1978|pages=187-198 [196-8] ] Civil law today, in theory, is interpreted rather than developed or made by judges. Only legislative enactments (rather than judicial precedents) are considered legally binding. However, in reality courts do pay attention to previous decisions, especially from higher courtsFact|date=January 2008.

Scholars of comparative law and economists promoting the legal origins theory usually subdivide civil law into four distinct 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.
*Chinese law is a mixture of civil law and socialist law.

A comprehensive list of countries that base their legal system on a codified civil law follows:

Pluralistic systems

Civil law and common law

ystems by geography

Despite the usefulness of different classifications, every legal system has its own individual identity. Below are groups of legal systems, categorised by their geography. Click the "show" buttons on the right for the lists of countries.

ee also

*Comparative law
*Common law
*Civil law (legal system)
*Socialist law
*Soviet law
*Tribal sovereignty

External links

* [ World Legal Systems] , Website of the Faculty of Law of the University of Ottawa
* [ Australian Institute of Comparative Legal Systems]
* [ Factbook list of legal systems]


  • Moustaira Elina N., Comparative Law: University Courses (in Greek), Ant. N. Sakkoulas Publishers, Athens, 2004, ISBN 960-15-1267-5
  • Moustaira Elina N., Milestones in the Course of Comparative Law: Thesis and Antithesis (in Greek), Ant. N. Sakkoulas Publishers, Athens, 2003, ISBN 960-15-1097-4

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