In law, common law is that body of law derived from judicial decisions of courts and similar tribunals. The defining characteristic of "common law" is. In cases where the parties disagree on what the law is, a common law court looks to past precedential decisions of relevant courts, synthesizes the principles of those past cases as applicable to the current facts. If a similar dispute has been resolved in the past, the court is bound to follow the reasoning used in the prior decision. If, the court finds that the current dispute is fundamentally distinct from all previous cases, legislative statutes are either silent or ambiguous on the question, judges have the authority and duty to resolve the issue; the court states an opinion that gives reasons for the decision, those reasons agglomerate with past decisions as precedent to bind future judges and litigants. Common law, as the body of law made by judges, stands in contrast to and on equal footing with statutes which are adopted through the legislative process, regulations which are promulgated by the executive branch.
Stare decisis, the principle that cases should be decided according to consistent principled rules so that similar facts will yield similar results, lies at the heart of all common law systems. The common law—so named because it was "common" to all the king's courts across England—originated in the practices of the courts of the English kings in the centuries following the Norman Conquest in 1066; the British Empire spread the English legal system to its historical colonies, many of which retain the common law system today. These "common law systems" are legal systems that give great precedential weight to common law, to the style of reasoning inherited from the English legal system. Today, one-third of the world's population lives in common law jurisdictions or in systems mixed with civil law, including Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Botswana, Cameroon, Cyprus, Fiji, Grenada, Hong Kong, Ireland, Jamaica, Liberia, Malta, Marshall Islands, Namibia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Tobago, the United Kingdom, the United States, Zimbabwe.
Some of these countries have variants on common law systems. The term common law has many connotations; the first three set out here are the most-common usages within the legal community. Other connotations from past centuries are sometimes seen and are sometimes heard in everyday speech; the first definition of "common law" given in Black's Law Dictionary, 10th edition, 2014, is "The body of law derived from judicial decisions, rather than from statutes or constitutions. This usage is given as the first definition in modern legal dictionaries, is characterized as the “most common” usage among legal professionals, is the usage seen in decisions of courts. In this connotation, "common law" distinguishes the authority. For example, the law in most Anglo-American jurisdictions includes "statutory law" enacted by a legislature, "regulatory law" or “delegated legislation” promulgated by executive branch agencies pursuant to delegation of rule-making authority from the legislature, common law or "case law", i.e. decisions issued by courts.
This first connotation can be further differentiated into pure common law arising from the traditional and inherent authority of courts to define what the law is in the absence of an underlying statute or regulation. Examples include most criminal law and procedural law before the 20th century, today, most contract law and the law of torts. Interstitial common law court decisions that analyze and determine the fine boundaries and distinctions in law promulgated by other bodies; this body of common law, sometimes called "interstitial common law", includes judicial interpretation of the Constitution, of legislative statutes, of agency regulations, the application of law to specific facts. Publication of decisions, indexing, is essential to the development of common law, thus governments and private publishers publish law reports. While all decisions in common law jurisdictions are precedent, some become "leading cases" or "landmark decisions" that are cited often. Black's Law Dictionary 10th Ed. definition 2, differentiates "common law" jurisdictions and legal systems from "civil law" or "code" jurisdictions.
Common law systems place great weight on court decisions, which are considered "law" with the same force of law as statutes—for nearly a millennium, common law courts have had the authority to make law where no legislative statute exists, statutes mean what courts interpret them to mean. By contrast, in civil law jurisdictions, courts lack authority to act. Civil law judges tend to give less weight to judicial precedent, which means that a
Law is a system of rules that are created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It has been defined both as "the Science of Justice" and "the Art of Justice". Law is a system that regulates and ensures that individuals or a community adhere to the will of the state. State-enforced laws can be made by a collective legislature or by a single legislator, resulting in statutes, by the executive through decrees and regulations, or established by judges through precedent in common law jurisdictions. Private individuals can create binding contracts, including arbitration agreements that may elect to accept alternative arbitration to the normal court process; the formation of laws themselves may be influenced by a constitution, written or tacit, the rights encoded therein. The law shapes politics, economics and society in various ways and serves as a mediator of relations between people. A general distinction can be made between civil law jurisdictions, in which a legislature or other central body codifies and consolidates their laws, common law systems, where judge-made precedent is accepted as binding law.
Religious laws played a significant role in settling of secular matters, is still used in some religious communities. Islamic Sharia law is the world's most used religious law, is used as the primary legal system in some countries, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia; the adjudication of the law is divided into two main areas. Criminal law deals with conduct, considered harmful to social order and in which the guilty party may be imprisoned or fined. Civil law deals with the resolution of lawsuits between individuals and/or organizations. Law provides a source of scholarly inquiry into legal history, economic analysis and sociology. Law raises important and complex issues concerning equality and justice. Numerous definitions of law have been put forward over the centuries; the Third New International Dictionary from Merriam-Webster defines law as: "Law is a binding custom or practice of a community. The Dictionary of the History of Ideas published by Scribner's in 1973 defined the concept of law accordingly as: "A legal system is the most explicit, institutionalized, complex mode of regulating human conduct.
At the same time, it plays only one part in the congeries of rules which influence behavior, for social and moral rules of a less institutionalized kind are of great importance." There have been several attempts to produce "a universally acceptable definition of law". In 1972, one source indicated. McCoubrey and White said that the question "what is law?" has no simple answer. Glanville Williams said that the meaning of the word "law" depends on the context in which that word is used, he said that, for example, "early customary law" and "municipal law" were contexts where the word "law" had two different and irreconcilable meanings. Thurman Arnold said that it is obvious that it is impossible to define the word "law" and that it is equally obvious that the struggle to define that word should not be abandoned, it is possible to take the view that there is no need to define the word "law". The history of law links to the development of civilization. Ancient Egyptian law, dating as far back as 3000 BC, contained a civil code, broken into twelve books.
It was based on the concept of Ma'at, characterised by tradition, rhetorical speech, social equality and impartiality. By the 22nd century BC, the ancient Sumerian ruler Ur-Nammu had formulated the first law code, which consisted of casuistic statements. Around 1760 BC, King Hammurabi further developed Babylonian law, by codifying and inscribing it in stone. Hammurabi placed several copies of his law code throughout the kingdom of Babylon as stelae, for the entire public to see; the most intact copy of these stelae was discovered in the 19th century by British Assyriologists, has since been transliterated and translated into various languages, including English, Italian and French. The Old Testament dates back to 1280 BC and takes the form of moral imperatives as recommendations for a good society; the small Greek city-state, ancient Athens, from about the 8th century BC was the first society to be based on broad inclusion of its citizenry, excluding women and the slave class. However, Athens had no legal science or single word for "law", relying instead on the three-way distinction between divine law, human decree and custom.
Yet Ancient Greek law contained major constitutional innovations in the development of democracy. Roman law was influenced by Greek philosophy, but its detailed rules were developed by professional jurists and were sophisticated. Over the centuries between the rise and decline of the Roman Empire, law was adapted to cope with the changing social situations and underwent major codification under Theodosius II and Justinian I. Although codes were replaced by custom and case law during the Dark Ages, Roman law was rediscovered around the 11th century when medieval legal scholars began to research Roman codes and adapt their concepts. Latin legal maxims were compiled for guidance. In medieval England, royal