Common law, also known as case law or precedent, is a system of laws that are based on the decisions of judges in court cases. This system of law is unique in that it relies on the decisions of judges rather than legislation passed by the government. Common law is the oldest form of law in the English-speaking world and has been in existence since the Middle Ages. In this article, we will explore the history and evolution of common law and how it has changed over time.
The origins of common law can be traced back to the 11th century in England. At this time, the English legal system was largely based on the customs and traditions of the local people. This system was known as “common law” because it was based on the decisions of judges rather than on written laws. Over time, the common law system became increasingly formalized and began to rely more heavily on the decisions of judges.
In the 17th century, the English legal system underwent a major transformation. This transformation was the result of the emergence of the jury system. Under this system, juries were given the power to decide cases based on their own understanding of the facts presented to them. This gave judges more freedom to make decisions based on their own interpretation of the law.
The 19th century saw the emergence of the modern common law system. This system was based on the concept of stare decisis, which means that the decisions of higher courts are binding on lower courts. This system was designed to ensure that there was consistency in the decisions of the courts.
The 20th century saw further changes to the common law system. This included the introduction of the doctrine of judicial precedent, which states that the decisions of higher courts must be followed by lower courts. This doctrine has helped to ensure that the decisions of the courts are consistent and that the law is applied in a uniform manner.
Today, common law is still an important part of the legal system in many countries. It is used to interpret statutes, regulations, and other forms of law. Common law is also used to fill in gaps in the law where there is no clear statute or regulation.
Common law has changed and evolved over time, but its core principles remain the same. It is based on the decisions of judges, and it is designed to ensure that the law is applied in a uniform manner. Common law is still an important part of the legal system in many countries and will continue to be for many years to come.