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List of national legal systems

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Legal systems of the world
Legal systems of the world

The contemporary legal systems of the world are generally based on one of four basic systems: civil law, common law, statutory 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 common law because it is employed by the greatest number of people.[2][3][4]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ Legal System Basics: Crash Course Government and Politics #18
  • ✪ Overview of the American Legal System
  • ✪ History of Legal Systems
  • ✪ List of national legal systems
  • ✪ Structure of the Court System: Crash Course Government and Politics #19


Hi, I'm Craig and this is Crash Course Civics and today we're gonna look at the basics of a system that affects all our lives: the law. And no, we're not going to be talking about the laws of thermo-dynamics. That's Hank's show. Though we will be bringing the heat, ha! The law affects you even if you never committed a crime because there's so much more to the legal system than just criminal justice, and even though we're going to focus mainly on courts, the law is everywhere. If you don't believe me, read the user license on your next new piece of software, or if you fly anywhere read the back of your plane ticket. Hopefully won't be more entertaining than what you're watching now, but that's examples of the law. In general, courts have three basic functions, only one of which you probably learned about in your history class. The first thing that courts do is settle disputes. In pre-modern history (which is way easier to understand than post-modern history), kings performed this function, but as states got bigger and more powerful it became much easier to have specialized officials decide important issues like who owned the fox you caught on someone else's land. Or what does the fox say, which was disputed a lot back then. The second thing the courts do is probably the one you heard about in school, or on television, or perhaps while studying for the standardized test, and that's interpret the laws. This becomes increasingly important when you actually try to read laws, or when you realize that legislators are often not as they might be when writing laws in the first place. Take a look at the Affordable Care Act. There are a few famous careless errors in that. Finally courts create expectations for future actions. This is very important if you want to do business with someone. If you know that you'll be punished for cheating a potential business client, you're less likely to do it. Still you might, 'cause there are a lot of jerks out there who would. Are you one of them? Don't be! At the same time if you know that people will be punished for cheating you you're more likely to do business. And it's courts that create the expectation that business will be conducted fairly. Interpreting the laws can help this too, since the interpretations are public and they set expectations that everyone can understand and know what the law means and how it applies and then world peace. No more law breaking ever. The first thing to remember about courts in the U.S. is that most legal action, if it occurs in court at all, occurs in state court. And if it occurs at night, it occurs in Night Court. Because this is mainly a series about federal government, and not Indiana government or sitcoms about court in New York, I'm going to focus mainly on the federal court system which has four main characteristics. One, the federal court system is separate from the other branches of government. The executive could do the job, just like kings used to but we have separation of powers so we don't have to be at the mercy of kings. Have you seen Game of Thrones? Two, the federal courts are hierarchical, with the Supreme Court at the top and turtles all the way down. Nope -- not turtles -- sorry I meant lower courts. What this means is that when a lower court makes a decision it can be appealed to a higher court that can either affirm or overturn the lower court's decision. The third feature of federal courts is that they are able to perform judicial review over laws passed by Congress and state legislatures, and over executive actions. And the fourth aspect of federal court system is that you should know that the federal judges are appointed for life, and their salaries can't be reduced. This is to preserve their independence from politics. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal. Remember when I told you that the legislature makes the laws? Well, that was true, but it's also not the whole story. Legislatures both state and national make laws and these written laws are called statutes. In continental Europe those are pretty much all the laws they have. Statutes. Statutes everywhere! And statues. That place is filled with art. They had the Renaissance there, y'know? But in the U.S. and England, which is where we got the idea, we have something called common law, which consists of the past decisions of courts that influence future legal decisions. The key to common law is the idea that a prior court decision sets a precedent that constrains future courts. Basically if one court makes a decision, all other courts in the same jurisdiction have to apply that decision, whether they like it or not. The collection of those decisions by judges becomes the common law. I don't have to have a reason to punch the eagle. I should probably point out what courts actually do and explain that there are two different types of courts that can make civil law. What differentiates the two types of courts is their jurisdiction, which basically means the set of cases that they're authorized to decide. Trial courts are also called courts of original jurisdiction. These are the ones you see on TV and they actually do two things. First, they hear evidence and determine what actually happened when there's a dispute. This is called deciding the facts of the case. Not everything that happened or that may be important qualifies as a fact in a court case. Those are determined by the rules of evidence, which are complicated and would really slow down an episode of Law and Order. After the trial court hears the facts of a case it decides the outcome by applying the relevant law. What law they apply will depend on statutes and in some cases what other courts have said in similar situations. In other words the common law. You might have noticed that I've been referring to courts, not judges or juries, because not all trials have juries. Bench trials have only a judge who determines the facts and the law. Besides, who decides what in a court case isn't really that important. More than 90% of cases never go to court by the way, they just get settled by lawyers out of court. But say you actually go to court and you lose. Naturally, you'd be upset. Especially if you're a sore loser, like me. Shut up. You have a choice. You can give up and go back to your normal, loser life or you can appeal the trial court decision to a higher court. An appeals court that has, you guessed it, appellate jurisdiction. Did you actually guess that? That'd be amazing. Appeals courts don't hear facts -- who wants those -- they just decide questions of law so you don't have to bring witnesses or present evidence, just arguments. In most cases, if you want to bring a successful appeal, you need to show that there was something wrong with the procedure of your trial. Maybe the judge allowed the jury to hear evidence they shouldn't have heard, maybe one of the jurors was a cyborg. Here's the way that these courts connect to what I was saying before about common and statutory law. Most common law is made by appeals courts. And because appeals courts have larger jurisdiction than trial courts, appeals decisions are much more important than trial court decisions. So now I'm going to talk about the three types of law, and it's gonna get confusing. We should probably go to the Thought Bubble for some nice, compelling, intriguing animations. The two main types of law are basically the Bruce Banner of law. They're the criminal law and civil law, but they can sometimes morph into the Incredible Hulk of laws: public law. "Public law, smash abuse of government authority!" If you watch TV or movies, or read John Grisham novels, you're probably familiar with criminal law. Criminal laws are almost always statutes written by legislatures, which means that there is an actual law for you to break. In most states the criminal laws are called the penal codes. In a criminal dispute -- and it's a dispute because the government says you broke the law and you will say you didn't -- the government is called the prosecution and the person accused of committing the crime is called the defendant. Almost all criminal cases happen at the state level and for this reason it's hard to know exactly what is or what is not a crime in each state. Although murder is a crime everywhere. There are also some federal crimes like tax evasion, mail fraud, and racketeering. If you're suing someone or being sued, you're in the realm of civil law. Civil cases arise from disputes between individuals, or between individuals and the government, when one party, the plaintiff, claims that the other party, the defendant, has caused an injury that can be fixed or remedied. If the plaintiff proves his or her case the defendant must pay damages. If you lose a civil case you don't go to prison or jail in most circumstances, but you may end up losing lots of money, and that sucks. I love money. Cases about contracts, property, and personal injuries, also called torts, are examples of civil law. So under certain circumstances a civil or criminal case can become public law. This happens when either the defendant or plaintiff can show that the powers of government or the rights of citizens under the Constitution or federal law is involved in the case. Also if the law gets exposed to gamma rays. "Law, smash!" For example, in a criminal case where the defendant claims that the civil rights were violated by the police, the decision can become public law. Thanks Thought Bubble. So those are the basics of the court system in the U.S. And you can see that there's a lot to keep straight. There are types of courts, basically trial courts and appeals courts, on both the state and federal level. And there are types of laws, basically statutory and common laws. The fact that we have both state and federal statutory law is an example of federalism in action. The U.S. unlike most other nations has both statutory and common law, but most of the time when we're talking about federal laws we're in the realm of statutes, or maybe the Constitution. When you study American government, most of the cases you read about are examples of appeals and of public law. How this all works in practice is even more complicated. And the adaptability of the American legal fabric allows statutes to stretch to fit the growing and changing American society. Much like Bruce Banner's incredibly elastic pants. Thanks for watching. I'll see you next time. I'm getting angry! Oh no! Ahhhh! I'm not wearing elastic pants! Oh no! Ahhhhh! Crash Course: Government and Politics is produced in association with PBS Digital Studios. Support for Crash Course Government comes from Voqal. Voqal supports non profits that use technology and media to advance social equity. Learn more about their mission and initiatives at Crash Course is made with the help of these Incredible Hulks. Thanks for watching. Rarrrr!


Civil law

Shamash (the Babylonian sun god) hands King Hammurabi a code of 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 four distinct groups:

  • French civil law: in France, the Benelux countries, Italy, Romania, Spain and former colonies of those countries;
  • German civil law: in Germany, Austria, Russia, Switzerland, Estonia, Latvia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo*, 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 in the Scandinavian cultural sphere, Finland and Iceland also inherited the system.
  • Chinese law: a mixture of civil law and socialist law in use in the People's Republic of China.

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 the Netherlands (1992), Argentina (2014), Brazil (2002) and Portugal (1966). 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]
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 on 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 in 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
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 the German, Italian, French and Portuguese doctrine and codes. However, in 2004 the Federal Supreme Court (STF) have gained the authority to create binding precedents (súmulas vinculantes) about Constitutional norms whose validity, interpretation and eficacy are controversial among the judiciary organs or among these and the public administration. Such controversy must cause juridical unsafety and relevant multiplication of prossecutions about an identical theme for a binding precedent to be created. The STF is the only court in Brazil with such attribution.
Bulgaria Bulgaria Civil Law system influenced by Germanic and Roman law systems
Burkina Faso Burkina Faso Based on French civil law system
Burundi Burundi
Chad Chad Based on French civil law system
China People's Republic of China Based on Germanic Civil law 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 Democratic Republic of the Congo Based on Belgian civil law
Ivory Coast Cote d'Ivoire Based on French civil law system
Cambodia Cambodia
Cape Verde Cape Verde Based on Portuguese civil law
Central African Republic Central African Republic Based on 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. Indeed, 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. 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. The Independent State of Croatia, a Nazi-controlled puppet state that was established in 1941 during World War II, used the OGZ as a basis for the 1943 "Base of the Civil Code for the Independent State of Croatia" ("Osnova građanskoga zakona za Nezavisnu Državu Hrvatsku"). After the War, Croatia become 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 propisa donesenih prije 6. travnja 1941. i za vrijeme neprijateljske okupacije"). By this law OGZ was declared invalid as a whole, but 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 June 25, 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.
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
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 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 which 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 Goa, 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
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 application of law in similar cases. Civil law largely modeled after 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. Civil law of Latvia enacted on 1937.
Lebanon Lebanon Based on Napoleonic civil law.
Lithuania Lithuania Modeled after Dutch civil law
Luxembourg Luxembourg Based on Napoleonic civil law.
Libya Libya Based on Napoleonic civil law, with Ottoman, Italian, and Egyptian sources
Macau Macau Based on the Portuguese civil law; also influenced by the law of the PRC
Mauritius Mauritius
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
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. 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 1700–1800s. Socialist-style modification in 1900s, and Continental European Law influences since 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 German civil law system. Also largely influenced by Japanese civil law which itself modelled after 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, a 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 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)
East Timor Timor-Leste Based on Portuguese civil law
Turkey Turkey Modeled after the Swiss civil law (Zivilgesetzbuch) of 1907.
Ukraine Ukraine Civil Code of Ukraine of 2004
United States United States – Louisiana 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 first impression and rarely, if ever, look at contemporary cases on the same issue in the UK or the Commonwealth.

Uruguay Uruguay
Uzbekistan Uzbekistan Represents an evolution of Soviet civil law. 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
King John of England signs Magna Carta

Common law and equity (legal concept) 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. Statutes were allowed to be made by the government. 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 currently in practice in Ireland, most of the United Kingdom (England and Wales and Northern Ireland), Australia, New Zealand, Bangladesh, India (excluding Goa),[citation needed] Pakistan, South Africa, Canada (excluding Quebec), Hong Kong, the United States (on a state level excluding Louisiana), and many other places. In addition to these countries, several others have adapted the common law system into a mixed system. For example, Nigeria operates largely on a common law system, but incorporates religious law.

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,[17] 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 family law heavily based on Shar'iah law.
Barbados Barbados Based on English common law
Belize Belize Based on English common law
Bhutan Bhutan Based on English common law, with 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 bijuridical 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 colonisation, 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 [18]
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),[19] 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[20] Based on English common law with some provisions of Islamic law
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 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 (see above)

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 Jewish 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.[21]

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
Aleppo Codex: 10th century Hebrew Bible with Masoretic pointing

The 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.

The Islamic legal system of Sharia (Islamic law) and Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) is the most widely used religious law, and one of the three most common legal systems in the world alongside common law and civil law.[22] It is based on both divine law, derived from the Qur'an and Sunnah, and the rulings of Ulema (jurists), who used 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/college) before they could issue Fatwā.[23] 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.[24] 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 or public law.

Country Description
Afghanistan Afghanistan Islamic law & American/British law after invasion
Egypt Egypt Islamic law is ensured in Article 2 of the Egyptian constitution.
The Gambia The Gambia English common law, Islamic law and customary law
Iran Iran Shia Islamic law
Libya Libya Islamic law
Mauritania Mauritania mix of Islamic law and French Civil Codes, Islamic law largely applicable to family law.
Morocco Morocco mix of Islamic law and French Civil Codes, Islamic law largely applicable to family law. Halakha recognized to family law cases for Jewish citizens.
Nigeria Nigeria Sharia in the northern states, common law in the south and at the federal level.
Oman Oman Sharia and tribal custom laws
Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia Islamic law
Sudan Sudan Based on 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 adapted 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, and Catholic canon law

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).[25]
Cameroon Cameroon
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, Muslim religious law, and Ottoman civil law.
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
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).[25]
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.[26]
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.[27]
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, but in response to the deteriorating political situation in the nearby Thirteen Colonies, the Quebec Act was passed in 1774, which allowed a mix of English Common Law and customary civil law, based on the Coutume de Paris. Codification occurred in 1866 with the enactment of the Civil Code of Lower Canada, which continued in force when the modern Province of Quebec was created at Confederation in 1867. Canadian federal law in force in Quebec is based on common law, but federal statutes also 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.[28]
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
Eswatini Swaziland 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 Swaziland.[25]
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
Afghanistan Afghanistan
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
Jordan Jordan Mainly based on French Civil Code and Ottoman Majalla, Islamic law applicable to family law
Morocco Morocco Based on Islamic law and French and Spanish civil law system
Oman Oman
Qatar Qatar Based on Islamic law and Egyptian civil law system (after the French civil law system)
Syria Syria Based on Islamic law and French civil law system
United Arab Emirates United Arab Emirates Based on Islamic law and 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 Gambia
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 Based on Common law system in the Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC Courts) and Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) Courts (after the English Common law system)[29]

Hybrid law


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 "expand" buttons on the right for the lists of countries. Some studies show that ethnic minorities are more likely to feel that the legal system within their particular jurisdiction is unfair and unjust.[30] People with mental health issues, particularly young ones are also likely to have a low opinion of the justice system.[31]

By geography

See also



  1. ^ "Legal Systems of the World" (PDF). Saint: Security Sector Development.
  2. ^ Wood, Phillip (2007). Principles of International Insolvency. Sweet & Maxwell. Retrieved 30 August 2015.
  3. ^ Wood, Phillip (2008). Maps of World Financial Law:Law and practice of international finance series. Sweet & Maxwell. 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
  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.
  9. ^ "Ministerio de Economía y Finanzas Públicas - Argentina". InfoLEG. Retrieved 19 January 2017.
  10. ^ "Comienza a regir el nuevo Código Civil y Comercial". 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
  16. ^ Valeriu Stoica (2009). Drept civil. Drepturile reale principale. Bucharest: C.H. Beck. pp. XIII.
  17. ^ "Magna Carta". Retrieved 10 November 2006.
  18. ^ Nandini Chavan, Qutub Jehan Kidwai, Personal Law Reforms and Gender Empowerment: A Debate on Uniform Civil Code, Page 245, Hope India Publications, 2006
  19. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 February 2015. Retrieved 30 January 2015.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  20. ^ The World Factbook
  21. ^ El-Gamal, Mahmoud A. (2006), Islamic Finance: Law, Economics, and Practice, Cambridge University Press, p. 16, ISBN 0-521-86414-3
  22. ^ 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
  23. ^ 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
  24. ^ 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
  25. ^ 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.
  26. ^ "Mauritius-Penal System". Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  27. ^ Geraldo, Geraldine Mwanza; Nowases, Isabella (April 2010). "Researching Namibian Law and the Namibian Legal System". Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  28. ^ 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
  29. ^ "Types of courts in Dubai". Retrieved 19 January 2017.
  30. ^ Anticipatory injustice among adolescents, 2008 JL Woolard, 2008
  31. ^ 12.30 EST (5 February 2015). "Youth justice system is 'failing vulnerable young offenders' | Society". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 January 2017.


  • 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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