What is Common Law?

Common law refers to the legal system that has evolved over time through the decisions made by judges and the interpretations of laws, as opposed to laws made by the legislature or executive orders.

The guiding principle of common law is 'stare decisis,' which means that the decisions made by higher courts serve as binding precedents for lower courts in similar cases.

Originating in England, this system has been adopted by many countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia, and India. All states in the U.S. except Louisiana follow the common law system, with Louisiana instead following a civil law system based on the Napoleonic Code.

Flexibility and adaptability are key characteristics of the common law system. Since the law is based on judicial decisions rather than legislation, it has the ability to evolve and adapt to changing social, economic, and political conditions. This allows judges to interpret and apply the law in a way that responds to contemporary society's needs and values.

Precedent is also a critical feature of the common law system. By following the decisions of higher courts, lower courts ensure that the law is applied fairly and consistently across different cases and jurisdictions. This promotes transparency and predictability in the legal system, which is vital for maintaining public confidence in the rule of law.

The common law system has played an essential role in developing modern legal systems worldwide, and it continues to be a significant characteristic of many legal systems today.