refers to a legal system that is formed based on the prior decisions of judges
in court cases. The basis for this type of decision-making is that cases with
similar circumstances should be ruled in a similar manner. By deciding a court
case, the judge forms precedent by which all other similar cases will be
is used in many countries as opposed to legislative law, which makes decisions
based on written laws and regulations. There is a system of judgments in common
law, in which decisions that are made by higher, appellate courts will set the
precedent for lower courts. However, decisions that are held in lower courts
will not usually be binding upon higher courts.
of common law is thought to begin in England during the Middle Ages. Now there
are a large number of nations that employ a common law system. Most often it is
countries that originated from English customs that will continue to utilize
the common law. This includes the United States.
The term common law originated in England in the
11th Century when the King employed several judges who would travel from
jurisdiction to jurisdiction to make rulings in court. During this time there
were many different sections of the kingdom that would employ their own local
law. The King attempted to unify these laws and they used the phrase common law
to indicate those laws that were common among all the jurisdictions.
Conquest of 1066 was when the common law really began to take over in England.
This is when the concept of the inquisition was integrated into the court
system. This means that the judges no longer acted as an impartial mediator,
but instead began to investigate the facts of the case and make an informed
judgment. It was also during this time that all judgments began to be recorded
in written form. This helped develop the concept of precedent.
King Henry II began to rule England in 1154, and
it was around this time that common law became the norm throughout the kingdom.
Henry II began to abolish local laws and customs and replaced them with a
national system. It was also during this time that juries began to be sworn by
an oath and used to decide court cases. This was true for both civil cases and
dispute would arise in the local courts, Henry II sent his traveling judges to
hear the case. When the judges returned back to London after hearing local
cases, this was when the judges’ decisions would be discussed and recorded.
Today, having a system based on common law is very beneficial in some cases.
This is because it ensures that the facts of a case will not be treated differently
at different times.