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List of national legal systems

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Legal systems of the world

The contemporary national legal systems are generally based on one of four basic systems: civil law, common law, customary law, religious law or combinations of these. However, the legal system of each country is shaped by its unique history and so incorporates individual variations.[1] The science that studies law at the level of legal systems is called comparative law.

Both civil (also known as Roman) and common law systems can be considered the most widespread in the world: civil law because it is the most widespread by landmass and by population overall, and common law because it is employed by the greatest number of people compared to any single civil law system.[2][3][4]

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Civil law

Shamash (the Babylonian sun god) hands King Hammurabi a code of law.

The source of law that is recognized as authoritative is codifications in a constitution or statute passed by legislature, to amend a code. While the concept of codification dates back to the Code of Hammurabi in Babylon ca. 1790 BC, civil law systems derive from the Roman Empire and, more particularly, the Corpus Juris Civilis issued by the Emperor Justinian ca. AD 529. 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.[5][6] Civil law today, in theory, is interpreted rather than developed or made by judges. Only legislative enactments (rather than legal precedents, as in common law) are considered legally binding.

Scholars of comparative law and economists promoting the legal origins theory usually subdivide civil law into distinct groups:

  • French civil law: in France, the Benelux countries, Italy, Romania, Spain and former colonies of those countries, mainly in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East;
  • German civil law: in Germany, Austria, Russia, Switzerland, Estonia, Latvia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo*, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Serbia, Greece, Portugal and its former colonies, Turkey, and East Asian countries including Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan (Republic of China);
  • Scandinavian civil law: in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. As historically integrated into the Scandinavian cultural sphere, Finland and Iceland also inherited the system, although especially Iceland has its own legal roots. Scandinavian or Nordic civil law exhibit least similar treats with other civil law systems and is sometimes considered a legal system in its own right, despite reception from mainly German civil law.

However, some of these legal systems are often and more correctly said to be of hybrid nature:

The Italian civil code of 1942 replaced the original one of 1865, introducing germanistic elements due to the geopolitical alliances of the time.[7] The Italian approach has been imitated by other countries including Portugal (1966), the Netherlands (1992), Lithuania (2000), Brazil (2002) and Argentina (2014). Most of them have innovations introduced by the Italian legislation, including the unification of the civil and commercial codes.[8]

The Swiss civil code is considered mainly influenced by the German civil code and partly influenced by the French civil code. The civil code of the Republic of Turkey is a slightly modified version of the Swiss code, adopted in 1926 during Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's presidency as part of the government's progressive reforms and secularization.

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

Country Description
Albania Albania Based on Napoleonic Civil law. The Civil Code of the Republic of Albania, 1991 [1] Archived 22 January 2016 at the Wayback Machine
Angola Angola Based on Portuguese civil law
Argentina Argentina The Spanish legal tradition had a great influence on the Civil Code of Argentina, basically a work of the Argentine jurist Dalmacio Vélez Sársfield, who dedicated five years of his life to this task. The Civil Code came into effect on 1 January 1871. Beyond the influence of the Spanish legal tradition, the Argentinian Civil Code was also inspired by the Draft of the Brazilian Civil Code, the Draft of the Spanish Civil Code of 1851, the Napoleonic code and the Chilean Civil Code. The sources of this Civil Code also include various theoretical legal works, mainly of the great French jurists of the 19th century. It was the first Civil Law that consciously adopted as its cornerstone the distinction between i. rights from obligations and ii. real property rights, thus distancing itself from the French model.

The Argentinian Civil Code was also in effect in Paraguay, as per a Paraguayan law of 1880, until the new Civil Code went into force in 1987.

In Argentina, this 1871 Civil Code remained in force until August 2015, when it was replaced by the new Código Civil y Comercial de la Nación.[9][10]

During the second half of the 20th century, the German legal theory became increasingly influential in Argentina.

Andorra Andorra Courts apply the customary laws of Andorra, supplemented with Roman law and customary Catalan law.[11]
Armenia Armenia Based on Napoleonic Civil law and traditional Armenian law.
Aruba Aruba Based on Dutch civil law
Austria Austria Based on Germanic Civil law. The Allgemeines bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (ABGB) of 1811
Azerbaijan Azerbaijan Based on German, French, Russian, and traditional Azerbaijani Law
Belarus Belarus Based on Germanic Civil law (administrative, criminal codes)
Belgium Belgium The Napoleonic Code is still in use, although it is heavily modified (especially concerning family law)
Benin Benin Based on Napoleonic Civil law.
Bolivia Bolivia Influenced by the Napoleonic Code
Bosnia and Herzegovina Bosnia and Herzegovina Influenced by Austrian law. The Swiss civil law (Zivilgesetzbuch) was a model for the Law on Obligations of 1978.
Brazil Brazil Based on German, Italian, French and Portuguese law. However, in 2004 the Federal Constitution was amended to grant the Supreme Federal Court authority to issue binding precedents (súmulas vinculantes) to settle controversies involving constitutional law – a mechanism that echoes the stare decisis principle typically found in common law systems.
Bulgaria Bulgaria Civil Law system influenced by Germanic and Roman law systems
Burkina Faso Burkina Faso Based on the French civil law system
Burundi Burundi
Chad Chad Based on the French civil law system
China People's Republic of China Based on Germanic Civil law and France Civil law, also with influences from the Soviet Socialist law from Soviet Union
Republic of the Congo Republic of the Congo Based on the Napoleonic Civil law.
Democratic Republic of the Congo the Democratic Republic of the Congo Based on Belgian civil law
Cambodia Cambodia
Cape Verde Cape Verde Based on Portuguese civil law
Central African Republic Central African Republic Based on the French civil law system
Chile Chile Based on the Chilean Civil Law inspired by the Napoleonic Civil Law. The Spanish legal tradition exercised an especially great influence on the civil code of Chile. On its turn, the Chilean civil code influenced to a large degree the drafting of the civil codes of other Latin-American states. For instance, the codes of Ecuador (1861) and Colombia (1873) constituted faithful reproductions of the Chilean code, but for very few exceptions. The compiler of the Civil Code of Chile, Venezuelan Andrés Bello, worked for its completion for almost 30 years, using elements, of the Spanish law on the one hand, and of other Western laws, especially of the French one, on the other. It is noted that he consulted and used all of the codes that had been issued till then, starting from the era of Justinian.

The Civil Code came into effect on 1 January 1857. The influence of the Napoleonic code and the Law of Castile of the Spanish colonial period (especially the Siete Partidas), is great; it is observed however that e.g. in many provisions of property or contract law, the solutions of the French code civil were put aside in favor of pure Roman law or Castilian law.

Colombia Colombia Based on the Chilean Civil Law. Civil code introduced in 1873. Nearly faithful reproduction of the Chilean civil code
Costa Rica Costa Rica Based on the Napoleonic Civil Law. First Civil Code (a part of the General Code or Carrillo Code) came into effect in 1841; its text was inspired by the South Peruvian Civil Code of Marshal Andres de Santa Cruz. The present Civil Code went into effect 1 January 1888 and was influenced by the Napoleonic Code and the Spanish Civil Code of 1889 (from its 1851 draft version).
Croatia Croatia Based on the Germanic Civil Law. The Croatian Law system is largely influenced by German and Austrian law systems. It is significantly influenced by the Civil Code of the Austrian Empire from 1811, known in Croatia as "General Civil Law" ("Opći građanski zakon"). OGZ was in force from 1853[12] to 1946. After the World War II, Croatia becomes a member of the Yugoslav Federation which enacted in 1946 the "Law on immediate voiding of regulations passed before April 6, 1941, and during the enemy occupation" ("Zakon o nevaženju pravnih proposal donesenih prije 6. travnja 1941. i za vrijeme neprijateljske okupacije"). By this law, OGZ was declared invalid as a whole, but the implementation of some of its legal rules was approved. During the post-War era, the Croatian legal system become influenced by elements of the socialist law. Croatian civil law was pushed aside, and it took norms of public law and legal regulation of the social ownership. After Croatia declared independence from Yugoslavia on 25 June 1991, the previous legal system was used as a base for writing new laws. "The Law on Obligations" ("Zakon o obveznim odnosima") was enacted in 2005.[13] Today, Croatia as a European Union member state implements elements of the EU acquis into its legal system.
Cuba Cuba Influenced by Spanish and American law with large elements of Communist legal theory.
Curaçao Curaçao Based on Dutch Civil Law.
Czech Republic Czech Republic Based on Germanic civil law. Descended from the Civil Code of the Austrian Empire (1811), influenced by German (1939–45) and Soviet (1947/68–89) legal codes during occupation periods, substantially reformed to remove Soviet influence and elements of socialist law after the Velvet Revolution (1989). The new Civil Code of the Czech Republic was introduced in 2014, reestablishing the norms of the ABGB, an reintroducing terms and concepts from it.
Denmark Denmark Based on North Germanic law. Scandinavian-North Germanic civil law.
Dominican Republic Dominican Republic Based on the Napoleonic Code
Ecuador Ecuador Based on the Chilean civil law. Civil code introduced in 1861.
El Salvador El Salvador Based on law.
Estonia Estonia Based on German civil law.
Finland Finland Based on Nordic law.[14]
France France Based on Napoleonic code (code civil of 1804)
Egypt Egypt Based on Napoleonic civil law and Islamic law.
Equatorial Guinea Equatorial Guinea
Ethiopia Ethiopia
Gabon Gabon Based on the French civil law system
Guinea Guinea Based on French civil law system, customary law, and decree[14]
Guinea-Bissau Guinea-Bissau Based on Portuguese civil law
Georgia (country) Georgia
Germany Germany Based on Germanic civil law. The Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch of 1900 ("BGB"). The BGB is influenced both by Roman and German law traditions.
Greece Greece Based on Germanic civil law. The Greek civil code of 1946, highly influenced by traditional Roman law and the German civil code of 1900 (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch); the Greek civil code replaced the Byzantine–Roman civil law in effect in Greece since its independence (Νομική Διάταξη της Ανατολικής Χέρσου Ελλάδος, Legal Provision of Eastern Mainland Greece, November 1821: 'Οι Κοινωνικοί Νόμοι των Αειμνήστων Χριστιανών Αυτοκρατόρων της Ελλάδος μόνοι ισχύουσι κατά το παρόν εις την Ανατολικήν Χέρσον Ελλάδα', 'The Social [i.e. Civil] Laws of the Dear Departed Christian Emperors of Greece [referring to the Byzantine Emperors] alone are in effect at present in Eastern Mainland Greece')
Guatemala Guatemala Based on Napoleonic civil law. Guatemala has had three Civil Codes: the first one from 1877, a new one introduced in 1933, and the one currently in force, which was passed in 1963. This Civil Code has suffered some reforms throughout the years, as well as a few derogations relating to areas that have subsequently been regulated by newer laws, such as the Code of Commerce and the Law of the National Registry of Persons. In general, it follows the tradition of the Roman-French system of civil codification.

Regarding the theory of 'sources of law' in the Guatemalan legal system, the 'Ley del Organismo Judicial' recognizes 'the law' as the main legal source (in the sense of legislative texts), although it also establishes 'jurisprudence' as a complementary source. Although jurisprudence technically refers to judicial decisions in general, in practice it tends to be confused and identified with the concept of 'legal doctrine', which is a qualified series of identical resolutions in similar cases pronounced by higher courts (the Constitutional Court acting as a 'Tribunal de Amparo', and the Supreme Court acting as a 'Tribunal de Casación') whose theses become binding for lower courts.

Haiti Haiti Based on Napoleonic civil law.
Honduras Honduras
Hungary Hungary Based on Germanic, codified Roman law with elements from Napoleonic civil law.
Iceland Iceland Based on North Germanic law. Germanic traditional laws and influenced by Medieval Norwegian and Danish laws.
India India (only State of Goa, and Union Territories of Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli) Based on Portuguese civil law
Italy Italy Based on Germanic civil law, with elements of the Napoleonic civil code; civil code of 1942 replaced the original one of 1865
Ivory Coast Ivory Coast Based on French civil law system
Japan Japan Based on Germanic civil law. Japanese civil code of 1895.
Latvia Latvia Based on Napoleonic and German civil law, as it was historically before the Soviet occupation. While general principles of law are prerequisites in making and interpreting the law, case law is also regularly applied to present legal arguments in courts and explain the application of law in similar cases. Civil law largely modeled after the Napoleonic code mixed with strong elements of German civil law. Criminal law retains Russian and German legal traditions, while criminal procedure law has been fully modeled after practice accepted in Western Europe. The civil law of Latvia enacted in 1937.
Lebanon Lebanon Based on Napoleonic civil law.
Lithuania Lithuania Modeled after Dutch civil law
Louisiana Louisiana
United States (U.S.)
Law in the state of Louisiana is based on French and Spanish civil law

Federal courts and 49 states use the legal system based on English common law (see below), which has diverged somewhat since the mid-nineteenth century in that they look to each other's cases for guidance on issues of the first impression and rarely look at contemporary cases on the same issue in the UK or the Commonwealth.

Luxembourg Luxembourg Based on Napoleonic civil law.
Macau Macau Based on the Portuguese civil law; also influenced by the law of the PRC
Mexico Mexico Based on Napoleonic civil law."The origins of Mexico's legal system are both ancient and classical, based on the Roman and French legal systems, and the Mexican system shares more in common with other legal systems throughout the world (especially those in Latin America and most of continental Europe) ..."[15]
Mongolia Mongolia Based on Germanic civil law.
Montenegro Montenegro Based on Napoleonic and German civil law. First: the General Property Code for the Principality of Montenegro of 1888, written by Valtazar Bogišić. Present: the Law on Obligations of 2008.
Mozambique Mozambique Based on Portuguese civil law
Netherlands Netherlands Based on Napoleonic code with German law influence
Nepal Nepal Based on Civil Code, however, the principle of stare decisis is widely practised. The legal system of Nepal has been influenced by the Indian legal system
Norway Norway Scandinavian-North Germanic civil law, based on North Germanic law. King Magnus VI the Lawmender unified the regional laws into a single code of law for the whole kingdom in 1274. This was replaced by Christian V's Norwegian Code of 1687.
Panama Panama
Paraguay Paraguay The Paraguayan Civil Code in force since 1987 is largely influenced by the Napoleonic Code and the Argentinian Code
Peru Peru Based on civil law system; accepts compulsory International Court of Justice ICJ jurisdiction with despotic and corrupting reservations;
Poland Poland The Polish Civil Code in force since 1965
Portugal Portugal Influenced by the Napoleonic Code and later by the German civil law
Taiwan Taiwan (Republic of China) Influenced by German Civil Code and Japanese Six Codes. Enacted in 1931.
Romania Romania Civil Code came into force in 2011. Based on the Civil Code of Quebec, but also influenced by the Napoleonic Code and other French-inspired codes (such as those of Italy, Spain and Switzerland)[16]
Russia Russia Civil Law system descendant from Roman Law through Byzantine tradition. Heavily influenced by German and Dutch norms in 1700–the 1800s. Socialist-style modification in 1900s and Continental European Law influences since the 1990s.
Rwanda Rwanda Mixture of Belgian civil law and English common law
São Tomé and Príncipe São Tomé e Príncipe Based on Portuguese civil law
Serbia Serbia First: the Civil Code of Principality of Serbia of 1844, written by Jovan Hadžić, was influenced by the Austrian Civil Code (Allgemeines bürgerliches Gesetzbuch). Present: The Swiss civil law (Zivilgesetzbuch) was a model for the Law on Obligations of 1978.
Slovakia Slovakia Descended from the Civil Code of the Austrian Empire (1811), influenced by German (1939–45) and Soviet (1947/68–89) legal codes during occupation periods, substantially reformed to remove Soviet influence and elements of socialist law after the Velvet Revolution (1989).
Slovenia Slovenia A Civil Law system influenced mostly by Germanic and Austro-Hungarian law systems
South Korea South Korea Based on the German civil law system. Also largely influenced by Japanese civil law which itself modeled after the German one. Korean Civil Code was introduced 1958 and fully enacted by 1960.
Spain Spain Influenced by the Napoleonic Code, it also has some elements of Spain's legal tradition, starting with the Siete Partidas, major legislative achievement from the Middle Ages. That body of law remained more or less unchanged until the 19th century when the first civil codes were drafted, merging both the Napoleonic style with the Castilian traditions.
Suriname Suriname Based on Dutch civil law
Sweden Sweden Scandinavian-North Germanic civil law. Like all Scandinavian legal systems, it is distinguished by its traditional character and for the fact that it did not adopt elements of Roman law. It assimilated very few elements of foreign laws whatsoever. The Napoleonic Code had no influence in the codification of law in Scandinavia. The historical basis of the law of Sweden, just as for all Nordic countries, is North Germanic law. Codification of the law started in Sweden during the 18th century, preceding the codifications of most other European countries. However, neither Sweden nor any other Nordic state created a civil code of the kind of the Code Civil or the BGB.
Switzerland Switzerland The Swiss Civil Code of 1908 and 1912 (obligations; fifth book)
Syria Syria Based on Napoleonic civil law.
East Timor Timor-Leste Based on Portuguese civil law
Turkey Turkey Modeled after the Swiss civil law (Zivilgesetzbuch) of 1907.
Ukraine Ukraine Based on German civil law and was accepted in 2004.
Uruguay Uruguay The basis for its public law is the 1967 Constitution, amended in 1989, 1994, 1996, and 2004. There is a clear separation of functions between the three administrative powers.[17] Private relationships are governed by the Uruguayan Civil Code.[18]
Uzbekistan Uzbekistan Represents an evolution of Soviet civil law. The overwhelmingly strong impact of the Communist legal theory is traceable.
Vietnam Vietnam Communist legal theory and French civil law
Venezuela Venezuela Civil law

Common law

King John of England signs Magna Carta.

Common law and equity are systems of law whose sources are the decisions in cases by judges. In addition, every system will have a legislature that passes new laws and statutes. The relationships between statutes and judicial decisions can be complex. In some jurisdictions, such statutes may overrule judicial decisions or codify the topic covered by several contradictory or ambiguous decisions. In some jurisdictions, judicial decisions may decide whether the jurisdiction's constitution allowed a particular statute or statutory provision to be made or what meaning is contained within the statutory provisions. The common law developed in England, influenced by Anglo-Saxon law and to a much lesser extent by the Norman conquest of England, which introduced legal concepts from Norman law, which, in turn, had its origins in Salic law. Common law was later inherited by the Commonwealth of Nations, and almost every former colony of the British Empire has adopted it (Malta being an exception). The doctrine of stare decisis, also known as case law or precedent by courts, is the major difference to codified civil law systems.

Common law is practiced in Canada (excluding Quebec), Australia, New Zealand, most of the United Kingdom (England, Wales, and Northern Ireland), South Africa, Ireland, India (excluding Goa),[citation needed] Pakistan, Hong Kong, the United States (on state and territorial levels excluding Louisiana and Puerto Rico), Bangladesh, and many other places. Several others have adapted the common law system into a mixed system; For example, Nigeria operates largely on a common law system in the southern states and at the federal level, but also incorporates religious law in the northern states.

In the European Union, the Court of Justice takes an approach mixing civil law (based on the treaties) with an attachment to the importance of case law. One of the most fundamental documents to shape common law is the English Magna Carta,[19] which placed limits on the power of the English Kings. It served as a kind of medieval bill of rights for the aristocracy and the judiciary who developed the law.

Country Description
American Samoa American Samoa Based on law of the United States
Antigua and Barbuda Antigua and Barbuda Based on English common law
Australia Australia Based on English common law.
The Bahamas Bahamas Based on English common law
Bangladesh Bangladesh Based on English common law, with the Muslim family law heavily based on Shariah law.
Barbados Barbados Based on English common law
Belize Belize Based on English common law
Bhutan Bhutan Based on English common law, with an Indian influence. Religious law influences personal law.
British Virgin Islands British Virgin Islands Based on English common law
Canada Canada Based on English common law, except in Quebec Quebec, where a civil law system based on French law prevails in most matters of a civil nature, such as obligations (contract and delict), property law, family law, and private matters. Federal statutes take into account the juridical nature of Canada and use both common law and civil law terms where appropriate.
Cayman Islands Cayman Islands Based on English common law
Cyprus Cyprus Based on English common law as inherited from British colonization, with civil law influences, particularly in criminal law.
Dominica Dominica Based on English common law
England Wales England and Wales
United Kingdom (UK)
Primarily common law, with early Roman and some modern continental European influences
Fiji Fiji Based on English common law
Gibraltar Gibraltar Based on English common law
Ghana Ghana
Grenada Grenada Based on English common law
Hong Kong Hong Kong Principally based on English common law
India India Based on English common law, except in Goa, Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli which follow a Civil law system based on the Portuguese Civil Law[20]
Republic of Ireland Ireland Based on Irish law before 1922, which was itself based on English common law
Israel Israel Based on English common law arising from the period of the British Mandate (which includes laws arising from previous Ottoman rule),[21] also incorporating civil law and fragments of Halakha and Sharia for family law cases
Jamaica Jamaica Based on English common law
Kiribati Kiribati Based on English common law
Liberia Liberia Based on Anglo-American and customary law
Marshall Islands Marshall Islands Based on law of the United States
Myanmar Myanmar Based on English common law
Nauru Nauru Based on English common law
Nepal Nepal Based on English common law
New Zealand New Zealand Based on English common law
Northern Ireland
United Kingdom (UK)
Based on Irish law before 1921, in turn, based on English common law
Palau Palau Based on law of the United States
Pakistan Pakistan[22] Based on English common law with some provisions of Islamic law
Papua New Guinea Papua New Guinea Based on English common law and customary laws of its more than 750 different cultural and language groups
Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Kitts and Nevis Based on English common law
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Based on English common law
Singapore Singapore Based on English common law, but Muslims are subject to the Administration of Muslim Law Act, which gives the Sharia Court jurisdiction over Muslim personal law, e.g., marriage, inheritance and divorce.
Tonga Tonga Based on English common law
Trinidad and Tobago Trinidad and Tobago Based on English common law
Tuvalu Tuvalu Based on English common law
Uganda Uganda Based on English common law
United States United States Federal courts and 49 states use the legal system based on English common law, which has diverged somewhat since the mid-nineteenth century in that they look to each other's cases for guidance on issues of the first impression and rarely if ever, look at contemporary cases on the same issue in the UK or the Commonwealth.
Law in the state of Louisiana is based on French and Spanish civil law. Law in the territory of Puerto Rico is based on Spanish civil law.

Religious law

Religious law refers to the notion of a religious system or document being used as a legal source, though the methodology used varies. For example, the use of Judaism and halakha for public law has a static and unalterable quality, precluding amendment through legislative acts of government or development through judicial precedent; Christian canon law is more similar to civil law in its use of codes; and Islamic sharia law (and fiqh jurisprudence) is based on legal precedent and reasoning by analogy (qiyas), and is thus considered similar to common law.[23]

The main kinds of religious law are sharia in Islam, halakha in Judaism, and canon law in some Christian groups. In some cases these are intended purely as individual moral guidance, whereas in other cases they are intended and may be used as the basis for a country's legal system; the latter was particularly common during the Middle Ages.

Aleppo Codex: 10th century Hebrew Bible with Masoretic pointing

Halakha is followed by Orthodox and Conservative Jews in both ecclesiastical and civil relations. No country is fully governed by halakha, but two Jewish people may decide, because of personal belief, to have a dispute heard by a Jewish court, and be bound by its rulings.

Canon law is the internal ecclesiastical law, or operational policy, governing the Catholic Church (both the Latin Church and the Eastern Catholic Churches), the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches, and the individual national churches within the Anglican Communion.[24] Canon law of the Catholic Church (Latin: jus canonicum)[25] is the system of laws and legal principles made and enforced by the hierarchical authorities of the Catholic Church to regulate its external organisation and government and to order and direct the activities of Catholics toward the mission of the church.[26] The canon law of the Catholic Church has all the ordinary elements of a mature legal system: laws, courts, lawyers, judges.[27] The canon law of the Latin Church was the first modern Western legal system,[28] and is the oldest continuously functioning legal system in the West.[29][30] while the distinctive traditions of Eastern Catholic canon law govern the 23 Eastern Catholic particular churches sui iuris.

The Islamic legal system, consisting of sharia (Islamic law) and fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), is the most widely used religious law system, and one of the three most common legal systems in the world alongside common law and civil law.[31] It is based on both divine law, derived from the hadith of the Quran and Sunnah, and the rulings of ulema (jurists), who use the methods of ijma (consensus), qiyas (analogical deduction), ijtihad (research), and urf (common practice) to derive fatwā (legal opinions). An ulema was required to qualify for an ijazah (legal doctorate) at a madrasa (law school or college) before they could issue fatwā.[32] During the Islamic Golden Age, classical Islamic law may have had an influence on the development of common law[6] and several civil law institutions.[33] Sharia law governs a number of Islamic countries, including Saudi Arabia and Iran, though most countries use Sharia law only as a supplement to national law. It can relate to all aspects of civil law, including property rights, contracts, and public law.

Country Description
Afghanistan Afghanistan Islamic law; formerly American and British law.
Iran Iran Shia Islamic law.
Nigeria Nigeria Sharia in the northern states, common law in the south and at the federal level.
Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia Islamic law.
Yemen Yemen Islamic law.

Pluralistic systems

Civil law and canon law

Canon law is not divine law, properly speaking, because it is not found in revelation. Instead, it is seen as human law inspired by the word of God and applying the demands of that revelation to the actual situation of the church. Canon law regulates the internal ordering of the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion. Canon law is amended and adopted by the legislative authority of the church, such as councils of bishops, individual bishops for their respective sees, the Pope for the entire Catholic Church, and the British Parliament for the Church of England.

Country Description
Vatican City Vatican City Based on Roman & Italian civil law and Catholic canon law[34]

Civil law and common law

Country Description
Botswana Botswana Based on South African law. An 1891 proclamation by the High Commissioner for Southern Africa applied the law of the Cape Colony (now part of South Africa) to the Bechuanaland Protectorate (now Botswana).[35]
Cameroon Cameroon Mixture of French civil law system and English common law (After World War I, Cameroon was ruled by France and the United Kingdom as a League of Nations mandate then a United Nations trust territory from 1916 to 1961)
Cyprus Cyprus Based on English common law (Cyprus was a British colony 1878–1960), with admixtures of French and Greek civil and public law, Italian civil law, Indian contract law, Greek Orthodox canon law and Muslim religious law.
Eswatini Eswatini Based on South African law. A 1907 proclamation by the High Commissioner for Southern Africa applied the Roman-Dutch common law of the Transvaal Colony (now part of South Africa) to the Swaziland Protectorate (now Eswatini).[35]
Guyana Guyana
JerseyJersey The Bailiwick of Jersey's legal system draws on local legislation enacted by the States of Jersey, Norman customary law, English common law and modern French civil law
Kenya Kenya Based on English Common Law and Civil law as well as the country's customary law.
Lesotho Lesotho Based on South African law. An 1884 proclamation by the High Commissioner for Southern Africa applied the law of the Cape Colony (now part of South Africa) to Basutoland (now Lesotho).[35]
Louisiana Louisiana
United States (U.S.)
Based on French and Spanish civil law, but federal laws (based on common law) are also in effect in Louisiana because of federal Supremacy Clause.
Malta Malta Initially based on Roman Law and eventually progressed to the Code de Rohan, the Napoleonic Code with influences from Italian Civil Law. English common law however is also a source of Maltese Law, most notably in Public Law
Mauritius Mauritius Laws governing the Mauritian penal system are derived partly from French civil law and British common law.[36]
Namibia Namibia Based on South African law. South Africa conquered South-West Africa (now Namibia) in 1915, and a 1919 proclamation by the Governor-General applied the law of the Cape Province of South Africa to the territory.[37]
Philippines Philippines Based on Spanish law; influenced by U.S. common law after 1898 Spanish– and Philippine–American Wars, personal law based on sharia law applies to Muslims
Puerto Rico Puerto Rico
United States (U.S.)
Based on Spanish law; influenced by U.S. common law after 1898 (victory of the U.S. over Spain in the Spanish–American War of 1898 and cession of Puerto Rico to the U.S.); federal laws (based on common law) are in effect because of federal Supremacy Clause.
Quebec Quebec
Canada (Canada)
After the 1763 Treaty of Paris awarded French Canada to Great Britain, the British initially attempted to impose English Common Law. In 1774, as a result of a ruling by the British courts in Campbell v Hall about the status of legal systems found in acquired territories, the British Parliament passed the Quebec Act, which preserved French civil law for private law while keeping and reserving English common law for public law including criminal prosecution. Codification occurred in 1866 with the enactment of the Civil Code of Lower Canada (French: Code civil du Bas-Canada), which continued in force when the modern Province of Quebec was created at Confederation in 1867. Subsequently, the Civil Code of Quebec (French: Code civil du Québec) came into effect on 1 January 1994, and is the civil code currently in force. Canadian (federal) criminal law in force in Quebec is based on common law, but federal statutes of or relating to private law take into account the bijuridical nature of Canada and use both common law and civil law terms where appropriate.
Saint Lucia Saint Lucia
Scotland Scotland
United Kingdom (UK)
Based on Roman and continental law, with common law elements dating back to the High Middle Ages.[38]
Seychelles Seychelles The substantive civil law is based on the French Civil Code. Otherwise, the criminal law and court procedure are based on the English common law. See Seychelles Legal Environment.
South Africa South Africa An amalgam of Roman-Dutch civil law and English common law, as well as Customary Law.
Sri Lanka Sri Lanka An amalgam of English common law, Roman-Dutch civil law and Customary Law
Thailand Thailand The Thai legal system became an amalgam of German, Swiss, French, English, Japanese, Italian, Indian and American laws and practices. Even today, Islamic laws and practices exist in four southern provinces. Over the years, Thai law has naturally taken on its own Thai identity.
Vanuatu Vanuatu Consists of a mixed system combining the legacy of English common law, French civil law and indigenous customary law.
Zimbabwe Zimbabwe Based on South African law. An 1891 proclamation by the High Commissioner for Southern Africa applied the law of the Cape Colony (now part of South Africa) to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).

Civil law and sharia law

Country Description
Algeria Algeria
Bahrain Bahrain
Comoros Comoros
Djibouti Djibouti
Egypt Egypt Family Law (personal Statute) for Muslims based on Islamic Jurisprudence, Separate Personal Statute for non-Muslims, and all other branches of Law are based on French civil law system
Eritrea Eritrea Only applies to Muslims for personal matters
Jordan Jordan Mainly based on French Civil Code and Ottoman Majalla, Islamic law applicable to family law
Mauritania Mauritania Mix of Islamic law and French Civil Codes, Islamic law largely applicable to both criminal, family law, and other forms of personal laws such as disputes.
Mauritius Mauritius Civil law and sharia personal law for Muslims.
Morocco Morocco Based on Islamic law and French and Spanish civil law system. Islamic law is mainly for personal matters and Jews use Halakha.
Oman Oman
Qatar Qatar Based on Islamic law and the Egyptian civil law system (after the French civil law system)
Syria Syria Mainly based on French Civil Code. Islamic law is applicable to family law. Non-Muslims follow their own family laws.
United Arab Emirates United Arab Emirates Based on Islamic law and the Egyptian civil law system (after the French civil law system)

Common law and sharia law

Country Description
Bangladesh Bangladesh Common law, personal law based on sharia law applies to Muslims
Brunei Brunei
The Gambia The Gambia
India India Based on English common law, Muslim personal law based on sharia law applies to Muslims. Exceptions for Muslims in Goa state, where the Goa Civil Code applies to all persons irrespective of religion, and for Muslims who marry under the secular common law Special Marriage Act, 1954.[39]
Malaysia Malaysia Based on English common law, personal law based on sharia law applies to Muslims
Nigeria Nigeria Sharia is applied in some northern states
Pakistan Pakistan Based on English Common Law, some Islamic law applications in inheritance. Tribal Law in FATA
United Arab Emirates United Arab Emirates[40]

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 geographic location.

See also


  1. ^ "Legal Systems of the World" (PDF). Saint: Security Sector Development. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 March 2020. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  2. ^ Wood, Phillip (2007). Principles of International Insolvency. Sweet & Maxwell. ISBN 9781847032102. Retrieved 30 August 2015.
  3. ^ Wood, Phillip (2008). Maps of World Financial Law:Law and practice of international finance series. Sweet & Maxwell. ISBN 9781847033420. Retrieved 30 August 2015.
  4. ^ "English Common Law is the most widespread legal system in the world" (PDF). Sweet & Maxwell. November 2008. Retrieved 30 August 2015.
  5. ^ Badr, Gamal Moursi (Spring 1978), "Islamic Law: Its Relation to Other Legal Systems", The American Journal of Comparative Law, 26 (2 [Proceedings of an International Conference on Comparative Law, Salt Lake City, Utah, February 24–25, 1977]): 187–198 [196–8], doi:10.2307/839667, JSTOR 839667
  6. ^ a b Makdisi, John A. (June 1999), "The Islamic Origins of the Common Law", North Carolina Law Review, 77 (5): 1635–1739
  7. ^ Triggiano, Annalisa. "Towards a Civil Code: The Italian Experience". Teoria e Storia del Diritto Privato.
  8. ^ Franklin, Mitchell (Spring 1951). "On the Legal Method of the Uniform Commercial Code". Law and Contemporary Problems. 16 (2): 330–343. doi:10.2307/1190098. JSTOR 1190098.
  9. ^ "Ministerio de Economía y Finanzas Públicas – Argentina". InfoLEG. Retrieved 19 January 2017.
  10. ^ "Comienza a regir el nuevo Código Civil y Comercial". Archived from the original on 23 June 2016. Retrieved 19 January 2017.
  11. ^ Andorra (11/07)
  12. ^ "Opći građanski zakonik | Hrvatska enciklopedija". Retrieved 19 January 2017.
  13. ^ Croatian legal history in the European context, Dalibor Čepulo, p. 357
  14. ^ a b The World Factbook
  15. ^ "Jaime B. Berger Stender Attorney at Law author, Tijuana, B.C., Mexico". Archived from the original on 4 April 2005. Retrieved 23 February 2007.
  16. ^ Valeriu Stoica (2009). Drept civil. Drepturile reale Principale. Bucharest: C.H. Beck. pp. XIII.
  17. ^ Constitution of Uruguay (in Spanish)
  18. ^ Uruguayan Civil Code Archived 2013-12-13 at the Wayback Machine (in Spanish)
  19. ^ "Magna Carta". Retrieved 10 November 2006.
  20. ^ Nandini Chavan, Qutub Jehan Kidwai, Personal Law Reforms and Gender Empowerment: A Debate on Uniform Civil Code, Page 245, Hope India Publications, 2006
  21. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 February 2015. Retrieved 30 January 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  22. ^ The World Factbook
  23. ^ El-Gamal, Mahmoud A. (2006), Islamic Finance: Law, Economics, and Practice, Cambridge University Press, p. 16, ISBN 0-521-86414-3
  24. ^ Boudinhon, Auguste. "Canon Law."  The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 9 August 2013
  25. ^ Black's Law Dictionary, 5th Edition, pg. 771: "Jus canonicum"
  26. ^ Della Rocca, Manual of Canon Law, p. 3.
  27. ^ Edward N. Peters, "A Catechist's Introduction to Canon Law",, accessed June-11-2013
  28. ^ Berman, Harold J. Law and Revolution, pp. 86, 115.
  29. ^ Edward N. Peters, Home Page, accessed 11 June 2013.
  30. ^ Raymond Wacks,Law: A Very Short Introduction, 2nd Ed. (Oxford University Press, 2015) p. 13.
  31. ^ Badr, Gamal Moursi (Spring 1978), "Islamic Law: Its Relation to Other Legal Systems", The American Journal of Comparative Law, 26 (2 – Proceedings of an International Conference on Comparative Law, Salt Lake City, Utah, 24–25 February 1977): 187–198, doi:10.2307/839667, JSTOR 839667
  32. ^ Makdisi, George (April–June 1989), "Scholasticism and Humanism in Classical Islam and the Christian West", Journal of the American Oriental Society, 109 (2): 175–182 [175–77], doi:10.2307/604423, JSTOR 604423
  33. ^ Badr, Gamal Moursi (Spring 1978), "Islamic Law: Its Relation to Other Legal Systems", The American Journal of Comparative Law, 26 (2 – Proceedings of an International Conference on Comparative Law, Salt Lake City, Utah, 24–25 February 1977): 187–198 [196–8], doi:10.2307/839667, JSTOR 839667
  34. ^ "Pope Francis reforms Vatican City courts with new law". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved 16 February 2021.
  35. ^ a b c Pain, JH (July 1978). "The reception of English and Roman-Dutch law in Africa with reference to Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland". The Comparative and International Law Journal of Southern Africa. 11 (2): 137–167.
  36. ^ "Mauritius-Penal System". Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  37. ^ Geraldo, Geraldine Mwanza; Nowases, Isabella (April 2010). "Researching Namibian Law and the Namibian Legal System". Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  38. ^ This definition is partly disputed – Thomson, Stephen, Mixed Jurisdiction and the Scottish Legal Tradition: Reconsidering the Concept of Mixture (2014) 7(1) Journal of Civil Law Studies 51–91
  39. ^ "Religious conversion: HC query raises more question marks". The Times of India. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  40. ^ Anticipatory injustice among adolescents, 2008 JL Woolard, 2008


  • 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.
  • Palmer, Vernon Valentine, Mohamed Y. Mattar, & Anna Kopper, eds. Mixed Legal Systems, East and West. Farnham–Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2014.

External links

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