Talk:Civil law (legal system)

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presumption of innocence and more generally the last two paragraphs of the differentiating section[edit]

These two paragraphs are unworthy of wikipedia. They are not only biased (I am inclined to say arrogant), but also wrong, unfounded and even worse for wikipedia without any conclusive citations.....

Just to give an editor two hints... Just facts:

1. in dubio pro reo is latin. It is latin because it is a roman principle of law. Naturally as civil law is based on Roman law it is an integral part of every civil law system. But in dubio pro reo includes the presumption of innocence. I don't know where the ridiculous assumption comes from that there is no equivalent of presumption of innocence in civil law. Just delete the paragraph about it and add a sentence that this is myth....

2. Juries: It is true that Germany for example has abolished juries in 1924 because the judgements were deemed to be too arbitrary and that it only uses lay judges in important cases. However a cursory look at a normal trial in France would make it absolutely clear that the people sitting there right to the judge in many cases are a jury.... The whole discussion in that paragraph seems to be coocked up by a first year law student who has heared something and written his prejudice down.

3. Hearsay or broader exclusion of evidence. You cannot say that civil law systems as a whole don't have functional equivalents to hearsay rules. Of course they are not realy needed in a non-jury trial but there are ample possibilties in which evidence will be excluded. I'd delete that completely. Or you going to have to name every civil-law country that has some hearsay rules...

4. The whole thing is written as if civil law only makes sense when contrasted to common law. Even for the English-language hawks on wikipedia this seems to be a bit too cheeky..... 3000 years!!! of development... There are provisions in the German BGB that are direct translations from the roman twelve tables for god's sake......

All in all I am not a proper editor for such an article, but this article needs working on.... why don't you ask an American professor of international law that you know to rewrite the article.... That would also guarantee that the result can be accepted by both sides.. (sounds ridiculous I know but reading that article you think that wikipedia is not a objective encyclopedia but a tool of people from North America and England to narrowmindedly judge about the world from their point of view.....) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:21, 7 May 2009 (UTC)

what are the rules governing this civil law as general[edit]

civil law and economy[edit]

I removed a vague statement:

A difference that is emphasized by economists is that civil law countries emphasize social stability, while common law countries focus on the rights of an individual. According to the legal origins theory promoted by some economists, this has a considerable impact of different countries' financial development.

Which economists say this? What do they mean exactly? David.Monniaux 20:00, 5 Feb 2005 (UTC)

You can find the answer to your question in Legal origins theory. I do not agree with that view, but it is has been widely discussed both in economics and law scholarship (especially corporate law) in the past years. So I suggest you revert your edit. Martg76 12:19, 6 Feb 2005 (UTC)

The "Legal origins theory" is a bit out of fashion, and its findings have been called into question. It seems institutional history rather than "legal origin" explain the causal effect on growth. There are also other weaknesses that appear as new variables are introduced into the model specifications (see for example Keefer, P. (2007) "Beyond legal origin and checks and balances" World Bank Working Paper WPS4154. Therefore, the edit should be maintained. 00:48, 20 August 2007 (UTC)

I read about half of this article and still don't know anything about what it is, compared to common law. Someone needs to write a good laymen's introduction. — Omegatron 03:14, 10 October 2005 (UTC)

I concur. Most discussions of the civil law I have seen have this problem---they are phrased in terms of general, broad statements, rather than focusing on concrete differences. For example, I've often heard that civil law really doesn't have an area called "contract law," but instead calls it "the law of obligations." --Coolcaesar 04:16, 10 October 2005 (UTC)
The key to me is "The original difference is that, historically, common law was law developed by custom, beginning before there were any written laws and continuing to be applied by courts after there were written laws, too, where civil law develops out of the Roman law of Justinian's Corpus Juris Civilis proceeding from broad legal principles and the interpretation of doctrinal writings rather than the application of facts to legal fictions."
The reason why the "civil law" as such is hard to describe is that is a collective term for all non-Anglo European legal systems. As such, the term, which includes basically everything that is not "common law", is ill-defined and somewhat Anglocentric. It is no big surprise that there are no interwiki links to equivalent German or French pages (none exist). Martg76 17:45, 25 November 2005 (UTC)

On a different note, "It is a common but incorrect belief that civil law systems do not offer the presumption of innocence, when in fact they do." Is that a serious suggestion by a serious person? If so, I would be greatly interested to know. Divad 20:37, 16 November 2005 (UTC)

EU -> European Convention on Human Rights - Article 6
Actually the Convention is not related to the EU at all. However ratification of the treaty is a requirement for membership in the Council of Europe and the EU. Except for the Vatican every country in Europe is a member of the CoE - and respects judgments made by the European Court of Human Rights. This ensures that regardless of domestic laws and verdicts - all European citizens have access to these rights. Also in my own country, Norway, the presumption of innocence is clearly stated in both law and theory. AndersH 22:37, 24 February 2007 (UTC)


Those who contributed to this page, where would you place Japan and China in the categories among the Civil Law Countries?

They are typically considered civil law countries, with considerable historical influence coming from Germany. Martg76 17:45, 25 November 2005 (UTC)

Japan and China borrowed heavily from the German Civil Code (BGB) of 1896/1900. I agree with that,Japan learnt the German Civil first, and then China learnt if from Japan. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 09:21, August 21, 2007 (UTC)

Common Law - Parliment is soveriegn and therefore statute or legislation is the primary source of law in common law, case law and precedent subservient to the dictat of Parliment. In EU Common Law countries, EU law is the primary source of law and can have direct effect on national law. Not quite as stated in this article!!!!!!!!!

Though Parliament is sovereign, parliament is usually not the place where a law is first formulated. Laws get formulated and elucidated in case law via the jurisprudence process. It is only when a reform in case law is needed that Acts of parliament are passed. Acts usually tend to be very precise and address specific aspects of a case. Even when they are general in wording, common law judges have the authority to expand or limit their application.
I second the above. Parliamentary laws are generally formed by judicial precedent. --Ashley Rovira 19:35, 16 December 2006 (UTC)

Civil law vs. Common law[edit]

In some common law countries, especially the United States, judges are seen as balancing the power of the other branches of government.

Are judges seen as one of the branches of government in US?

By contrast, the original idea of separation of powers in France was to assign different roles to legislation and to judges, with the latter only applying the law (the judge as la bouche de la loi; 'the mouth of the law').

Does this mean, that the roles of legislation and judges are not separated in common law legal systems?

An expression "the mouth of the law" looks like to be a citation from one of the Montesquieu's works (perhaps, from "The spirit of the laws"), describing judges as legal machines that have no their own mind. I guess it itsn't a way how to describe a process of law application in France or, to my knowledge, in any other country of the so-called civil law system category.--AraX 14:12, 14 July 2006 (UTC)

Civil law judges are usually trained and promoted separately from advocates, whereas common law judges are usually selected from accomplished and reputable advocates.

Where's the reference?

--AraX 14:12, 14 July 2006 (UTC)

For those interested, there is an article on Separation of powers. --Aquarius Rising 16:23, 14 July 2006 (UTC)

Editor deleted the following without giving a reason (retained here for reference): "....and secures the defendant the presumption of innocence. Amongst them Norway where the presumption is guaranteed by uncodified customary law and validated theory[1] recognized by the Supreme Court in plenary (effectively forming a precedent). While the presumption of innocence is present, what distinguishes the more inquisitorial system is the frequent lack of a jury of peers, which is guaranteed in many common law jurisdictions. Inquisitorial systems tend to have something akin to a "bench" trial made up of a single judge or a tribunal. Some Scandinavian nations have a tribunal that consists of one civilian and two trained legal professionals. One result of the inquisitorial system's lack of jury trial is a significant difference in the rules of trial evidence. Common law rules of evidence are founded on a concern that juries will misuse, or give inappropriate weight to unreliable evidence. In inquisitorial systems the rules of evidence are sometimes less complicated because legal professionals are considered capable of identifying reliable evidence. " Mondeo (talk) 23:39, 5 September 2008 (UTC)

It's important to remember that discovery plays almost no role in civil law proceedings (in France and Belgium). New information must be duly disclosed to the other party (parties). Everybody got to be somewhere! (talk) 21:05, 18 March 2014 (UTC)
Advocates and Magistrates in Belgium and France share a common training path. Persons intending embark on a career in the law will study law at a university and take a master's degree. A few will remain in academia to do doctoral studies but the vast majority will then do an internship and serve at the bar in the place where they are interns.

After the internship (2 years in Belgium), some will continue at the bar, while others will pursue other options such as training as a huissier de justice, notary, or taking up salaried positions requiring a good knowledge of the law.

To become a magistrate the candidate must have held a "judicial position" for at least one year during the previous three years to be admitted to a selection examination. The successful examinee is then expected to serve a "judicial internship" of 18 months. After successfully completing the internship the person concerned may be appointed as a junior examining magistrate. The judiciary is also open to advocates with 10 years experience at the bar who pass the examinations, as well as to advocates with 20 years at the bar and who successfully submit to oral examination. It is therefore incorrect to say that advocates and magistrates do not share the same career path. It should also be pointed out that the panel of judges in the Courts of Commerce is chaired by a jurist but the two other judges will often have spent part of their career in a commercial function source: Belgian Federal Service for Justice Everybody got to be somewhere! (talk) 21:05, 18 March 2014 (UTC)

Basic Tenets[edit]

I know there are five basic codes to civil law, but what are they? Civil code/porcedures, Criminal code/procedures, and commerical??

Those are, in no specific order as such doesn't exist :

1. Criminal Code (Codex or Criminal Law in some countries, with Law meaning usually quite big compendium of both definitions of criminal act in general and specific criminal acts, as well as punishment for those) and SEPARATE Criminal Procedures Code
2. Civil Code (containing materiae concerning property, land owning, loans, mortgage, contracts ((usually named and specified in form and requests for validity)) etc. In some countries procedures before courts in civil disputes are contained in this code in some there is separate code). Intellectual property law is usually included in this Code.
3. Administration Code (concerning obligatory behavior and possible disputes with government officials, as well as procedures for disputes among officials from different branches of government)
4. Family Code (usually number of separate laws, for example Family Law and Inheritance Law, which are separated in most countries and include procedures for divorce, property settlements, property division between partners in former marriage etc.)
5. Commercial Law (loose collection of numerous codes concerning relationships between companies, people and government in spheres of market, production, import/export, labor law (although some countries, including my, Bosnia and Herzegovina tend to stress social meaning of laws governing right of employees and unions) etc. Examples include Company Code, Labor Code, numerous Laws and lesser-than-laws legal documents originating from government regulating taxes, etc.

This is by no means an comprehensive list, nor it is as such used in legal systems of countries under civil law system, but rather an explanation, albeit short, of main branches of law in those countries intended for someone outside them. Keep in mind that Code and Law (in Upper Case) are used equivalently thorough these codifications, as is case in most European countries. --Azerel 10:58, 12 December 2006 (UTC)


Please remove the word ossification. Good writing doesn't send readers to the dictionary.

This is used in the section on opponents to coding laws.

Ossification? Funny, that's familiar to anyone who's taken a Health Guidance course in high school (where one learns that "os" means bone). You might want to try the Simple English Wikipedia for users with smaller vocabularies. Wikipedia is targeted towards reasonably intelligent people (that is, at least reasonably intelligent teenagers), not the lowest common denominator! --Coolcaesar 05:33, 1 November 2006 (UTC)

It is a matter of fact that ossification is not a commonly used word. Though a high school Health Guidance course may use the term, many intelligent readers do not. Additionally, the purpose of wikipedia is to lend FREE information to those that would otherwise have no access. For example, well educated prep-school Health Class students would have access to a library, and an array of encyclopedias, thus eliminating a great need for this service. Often, on the other hand, inner-city teens and young adults rely on a service like wikipedia to engage their minds, and to increase general knowledge. Far too often they are ill-equipped in terms of vocabulary. As such, it is beneficial to use more common terms. Finally, many wikipedia members offer suggestions for improved readability. This is not to insult the writer, but to improve the experience for the reader. It would benefit a greater number of people if a contributor refrains from defensive thinking and responses, and instead objectively addresses issues raised by other members.

Actually, I thought the purpose of Wikipedia was education and in fact ossification is not an uncommon word and in this case very appropriate and descriptive. One of the great values of the English language is the vast range of words which can be used for description allowing for a level of cognitive precision. Anyone knowing the meaning of ossification knew immeidately what the writer was describing. Perhaps it would be of great value for some readers to need or other sources to fully understand what is written. Let's not aspire to the least common denominator in our language. 14:58, 29 August 2007 (UTC)

I think the word is ok in this case. Sometimes good writing needs to "send readers to the dictionary." But it should never be condescending or obscure. We should strive for precision and clarity, and we should not tolerate authors who use obscure words and complicated sentence structure when it's not necessary. An encyclopedia is a resource for people who want to learn about a topic, not a playground for unemployed English Majors.

I'm butting into this discussion, I know, but I find myself agreeing with your points, and yet falling on the opposite side of the issue. Ossification is a great word, and yes great writing sometimes should send a reader to a dictionary, but your point about encyclopedia writing is correct. When somewhat simpler language can be used and will give the non-English (or as the writer asserts, Health Sciences) major reader a better understanding of the purpose of the passage, then it should be used, right? What is so wrong with saying, for example, that "[...]opponents of codification feared that making the law too rigid would render it incapable of adapting to unforeseen circumstances" or "[...]opponents maintained, among other concerns, that a rigid, too-structured legal system could become oppressive, with the potential to deprive citizens of rights not explicitly referred to in the written statutes"?Flowrider (talk) 19:24, 6 February 2011 (UTC)

Presumption of innocence[edit]

I removed the statement "It is a common but incorrect belief that civil law systems do not offer the presumption of innocence." That is debatable, when the role of the judge is inquisitive in nature as opposed to a referee and finder of fact. If this is really the case, this statement needs to be expanded on how there is a presumption of innocence in civil law, otherwise it's just an opinion. 08:50, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

REPLY: Well, I think the statement "judge is inquisitive" in most civil law countries needs to be revisited and supported with citations. In the article I dispute that "Most civil law countries investigate major crimes using a so-called inquisitorial system." I have to say this seems most like typical guesswork, without any real foundation. In most civil law countries I know of the judge does not have a inquisitorial role in criminal cases (or otherwise). 15 Dec 2006

Are you a lawyer? Any lawyer is aware that civil law judges take a far more active role in cases, particularly criminal ones, than their common law counterparts. Civil law judges can engage in a lot of direct investigation and inquiry into the underlying evidence. In contrast, a common law judge who attempts to do his own investigation outside of the courtroom (for example by visiting a murder scene by himself without warning the parties in advance) could be forced to recuse himself, and if he does not, he will be suspended or reprimanded for such an egregious breach of his duties. In rare cases judges who continue to engage in such behavior can be fired and ejected from the bench. A common law judge can look only at the evidence that the parties bring into his courtroom! But you are right that the article needs citations; I will look around for some. --Coolcaesar 21:25, 18 December 2006 (UTC)
I cannot imagine a civil jaw judge to visit the murder scene either. What he may do is to request some documents, for example, from different institutions etc.--Dojarca 13:12, 15 August 2007 (UTC)
I'm not a lawyer. There may well be a presumption of innocence in civil law, however given that I'm in a common law nation, I, as a Wikipedia reader, don't understand how. I don't understand how a judge can direct an investigation and be unbiased towards a defendant. After all (lawyers are human too....Ahhhh, the blasphemy!!!) Either way, the way the statement was phrased doesn't explain how and appears to be mere opinion. 09:12, 11 January 2007 (UTC)
I reinserted the presumption of innocence paragraph into the article this time with some references. Also I would like to refer to the article on presumption of innocence where you can find:

"This idea results from the fact that in most civil law nations, an investigating magistrate supervises police investigations. To common law countries with adversarial systems, the civil law criminal justice system appears to be hopelessly biased, since the judge should remain as impartial as possible. However the magistrate does not determine innocence or guilt and functions much as a grand jury does in common law nations"

Being a law student in a Civil law country I find it hard to understand that people question the impartiality of our judges. However Civil law is a very broad term for many different systems. Having both read, observed, given evidence and defended a client in court it is my clear opinion that judges, at least in my jurisdiction, are very impartial and the presumption is given due notice. However in my country the role of the judge is not to investigate or supervise the police - it is simply to hear evidence, pose questions to the advocates and witnesses if they like and if the criteria are met a verdict is given. AndersH 10:10, 28 February 2007 (UTC)
"how a judge can direct an investigation and be unbiased". Hailing from germany, I'm totally unable perceive this as a problem. The judge is supposed to understand, to comprehend, to grok the case. To get to the truth of the matter, which of course includes the question of wether the defendant is guilty at all. There's a difference between prosecution and investigation. --schnobs, 23:37, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
"Any lawyer is aware that civil law judges take a far more active role in cases, particularly criminal ones, than their common law counterparts." You seem to have understood civil law / inquisitorial system incorrectly. I can say this only from Finnish point of view and I'm not a lawyer. Here, a judge doesn't "engage in lot of direct investigation". The police conducts the investigation of course. What the judge may decide, is whether there is enough proof to have the defendant put to pretrial detention etc. The judge doesn't go to police station and question witnesses. He doesn't conduct house searches. So I'd like to know what you mean by your claim that judges in civil law jurisdictions "engage in lot of direct investigation".
Then when it comes to actual trial, the prosecutor mostly questions the parties involved. However, it is true that also the judge usually questions the defendant and the injured party. The duty of the prosecutor and the judge is to find the truth in the case. If the judge thinks asking questions about the case from the parties involved somehow helps his/her task to find the truth, he/she will ask those questions. It's that simple. The judge is of course impartial, he/she doesn't accuse anyone but merely asks verifying questions. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 12:06, 5 March 2007 (UTC).
About the presumption of innocence... I think the only difference (if there is a difference) is that in civil law systems it maybe isn't "presumption of innocence" but "presumption of being not guilty". There's however not actual difference. I don't really see what would be the alternative to presumption of innocence so I don't really understand how common law jurists can claim that civil law systems do not have it. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 12:14, 5 March 2007 (UTC).
Actually Hagerman, if you read the text I added about the presumption you will find it is unmistakably clear in the Convention (Article 6) that the words are "presumption of innocence". —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Andershalden (talkcontribs) 04:09, 9 March 2007 (UTC).

I would like to point out to all the above that "presumption of innocence" doesn't mean "being impartial." It means that there is a legal presumption of innocence in favor of the accused. And a legal presumption is a means of allocating the burden of proof. It is NOT a fiction of the type "innocent until proven guilty." It simply means that the burden of proof is on the prosecution. Whether the judge is active or not in collecting evidence has little bearing on whether or not there is a presumption of innocence. LeoDV 22:38, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

It is also important to note that "civil law" also refers primarily to private law and excludes discussion of criminal law. Including "presumption of innocence" in this article just confuses mattes. Lef through the Fr. Civil Code of 1804 or the German Civil Code of 1896/1900 and tell me where criminal mattters are addressed. (They are not).Voltaire1799 20:55, 8 May 2007 (UTC)

You are correct that, within a particular legal system, civil law refers to essentially private law. This article, however, deals with the civil law tradition as opposed to the common law. Both involve private law, criminal law, etc. How criminal law is conducted and how it is perceived to be conducted is properly a subject of this article.IMHO (talk) 00:13, 9 July 2008 (UTC)
We in Russia call our legal system "Roman law" and common law systems are called "custom law" or "precedent law" here. Civil law is teached as to be a part of our law regulating relationships between individuals. So calling the entire legal system "civil law" is somewhat incorrrect.--Dojarca 13:22, 15 August 2007 (UTC)

The influence of articles tends to be much greater in civil law countries[edit]

I have removed the claim that: "Also, the influence of articles by legal academics on case law tends to be much greater in civil law countries". I see there is no source that can even remotely verify this. And from my own experience this is not the case. Legal literature and articles have very limited weight in any civil law court as far as I know. In Scandinavia it is ranked far below all other sources of law that a judge may consider relevant. It can only be used to argue pro or contra your own interpretation of the relevant law/paragraph - but it cannot decide the outcome of a case. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Andershalden (talkcontribs) 04:20, 9 March 2007 (UTC).

"Also, the influence of articles by legal academics on case law tends to be much greater in civil law countries" seems true in France. Since judges do not extensively comment their decisions inside the decisions, academics then do the necessary commentary and extract the doctrinal changes. David.Monniaux 05:11, 24 May 2007 (UTC)
Yes, articles have more weight in France - but the article covers all Civil Law countries and should reflect that. In the Scandinavian countries verdicts are filled with both relevant and irrelevant comments by the judges (obiter dicta) with regards to the case in question, alternative opinions had the facts been different and the dissenting judges opinions that future cases may build upon. Academic articles and books however have little value in deciding the case. They are often quoted from by both attorneys and judges - but only if they are thought to accurately express the status quo (or possible avenues).
Academic discussion certainly plays a relatively important role in Belgium and France. Opposing schools of legal doctrine are often cited in pleadings in civil cases, and it is often left to the Court to rule on which doctrine should be followed. The judgment will state the reasons why a particular doctrine is relevant or otherwise to a particular case. Important rulings of this kind are collected and recorded in looseleaf repertoria and as well as in on-line legal databases. Advocates will often try to bend doctrine to their own particular argument and it will be up to the other party or parties to point this out to the court. Everybody got to be somewhere! (talk) 20:32, 18 March 2014 (UTC)

Mistake in the colour coding of the map[edit]

India has a common law legal system, not a civil law one. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:34, 31 August 2007 (UTC)

Why is India shown as a Civil Law country?[edit]

In the map where civil law countries are shown in Orange color, India is also shown as civil law country, while India being the former Britich colony follows the common law system. It is shown hyer as a common law country —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:37, 22 September 2007 (UTC)

Without commenting on India's classification (I'm not familiar with its legal system), merely being an ex-British colony doesn't mean that a country is a common law country. By way of example, countries like South Africa and Sri Lanka were also former British colonies, but they aren't deemed purely common-law countries (in these particular cases, a combination of Roman-Dutch and English common law characterise their legal systems, due to a common history of 17th century Dutch colonisation). Even parts of the British Isles like Scotland, have legal systems which are classified differently202.59.18.126 (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 05:17, 13 August 2012 (UTC)

Clearly it is common law, see the Law of India.--Jack Upland (talk) 07:15, 29 July 2015 (UTC)


This article is well written, but could use a few changes and citations. Some quotes such as "Common law rules of evidence are founded on a concern that juries will misuse, or give inappropriate weight to unreliable evidence," are very good in explaining the differences which plague many a common law jurisdiction law student. Someone who wished to write an article with such an assertion would benefit from a footnote to a source. With a little work, this article should be nominated for Good Article status. Legis Nuntius (talk) 01:50, 14 December 2007 (UTC)

What does it mean?[edit]

That image is included in the article with no explanation as to what the colors represent or what it means at all. Some sort of explanation to tie it in with the text would be useful. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:21, 29 January 2008 (UTC)

Do you agree with this? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:18, 6 March 2008 (UTC)

Map - Gaspe[edit]

On larger map image, Gaspe peninsula shown as "Common Law". Should be shown as "Common and Civil Law" (Gaspe is part of Quebec).

 Atikokan (talk) 15:22, 20 April 2008 (UTC)

Pretty badly written introduction.[edit]

Namely that the writer seems more interested in writing about common law than civil law. While I am sure some degree of comparison is very useful, if not necessary, I don't think that going to great lengths to explain what common law is and then just saying "and civil law is not like this" is a very good way of defining civil law.

The 4th paragraph in the intro (the largest one) is the main culprit here. In fact the third sentence in it doesn't even follow on properly from the first two and should logically read pretty much the opposite of what it does. In addition it seems to be be very US-centric: while it mentions English Common Law, it then goes on to list examples of basic tenets of this which seem to be drawn directly from the US Constitution - i.e. the phrase "life, liberty and property" and the right to bear arms, neither of which are exactly universal points of common law, and both of which are pretty much exclusively linked, in the mids of most people, with the USA.

So I think it's pretty badly written as an introduction, but as I don't know too much about the subject I don't really want to go about editing it myself. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:50, 4 July 2008 (UTC)

I concur that common law's far too prominent in the introduction, especially considering the intro should be more like a gloss on the fundamentals of civil law. Also like you, I'm loathe to modify the intro since I'm not well-versed in legal studies. I'm rather sure, though, that in-depth comparisons to common law and criticisms of civil law belong in the body of the article.
Further, the article's too devoid of proper citation; I've tagged the article. RemiCogan (talk) 01:03, 6 July 2008 (UTC)
I'll up that. It's fairly wrong and discussing apples and oranges as if they were both fungus. While it's true that civil law systems are generally considered to be premised on legal positivism and the USA at least is seen to be based on natural law, those paragraphs in the intro are not correctly stating the positions. It seems like it's getting into a discussion of social contract, but both legal traditions can be premised upon that.IMHO (talk) 00:32, 9 July 2008 (UTC)

Scandanavian traditions[edit]

John Henry Merryman, in the second edition of The Common Law Tradition, recognizes that the legal systems among the Scandanavian states are part of neither the common law or civil law traditions. The inclusion of Scandanvian systems seems a little over generalizing particularly given the following quote

The term "civil law" as applied to a legal tradition actually originates in English-speaking countries, where it was used to lump all non-English legal traditions together and contrast them to the English common law.

Unless there are established comparative law sources that indicate that the Scandanavian systems are part of the civil law tradition, their listing in this article as such should be removed.IMHO (talk) 00:43, 9 July 2008 (UTC)

The University of Bergen law department (in Norway) in their European Credit Transfer System Information package page states the following (emphasis mine):

As it is common to classify a legal system from the western world either belonging to common law or civil law, the question is whether Scandinavian law is a common law system or a civil law system?
It was argued in the sixties that this question cannot be answered in an intelligable way. Later it has been realised that this generalisation sometimes is necessary. But no unanimous answer has been given. Some claim that the Scandinavian legal systems is a subgroup of civil law, others argue that it must be classified between the two systems.

This indicates that though there is disagreement, legitimate scholars do classify Scandanavian law as civil law. It appears that the text you cite falls into the other camp.

Given the non-unanimity, this classification as civil should not be used to change the fundamental characteristics used to classify something as civil law but should be mentioned more as a border-line case which is still classified as civil law.

Maybe the paragraph could be revised as follows:

Civil law has its roots in Roman law, Canon law and the Enlightenment, alongside influences from other religious laws such as Islamic law.[2][3][4] The legal systems in many civil law countries are based around one or several codes of law, which set out the main principles that guide the law. The most famous example is perhaps the French Civil Code, although the German Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (or BGB) and the Swiss Civil Code are also landmark events in the history of civil law. The civil law systems of Scotland and South Africa are uncodified.


Scandanavian Countries (this should be a section heading)

The law systems of Scandinavian countries are sometimes classified as civil law countries because of the structure, style and diction of the law codes, the concern for ratio legis, and the judiciary's limitation to identifying itself to the policies of the ruling majority. However three factors weigh against classifying them as civil law countries: the lack of a general codification which would correspond to, for example, the French Civil Code; the unsystematic nature of the existing codes; and, most importantly, the fact that, at all levels, Scandanavian courts cite precedents.[5] These lead other scholars to classify them in some category between civil and common law. [6]

The references would need to be cleaned up, but this would describe the distinctions without compromising the accuracy of the article in properly describing what is civil and common law.

BrotherE (talk) 16:54, 23 July 2008 (UTC)

I think the controversy can be traced to something mentioned later in the article. The article says that historically, the term civil law was introduced to be the category of everything that was not common law. [7]. Thus the editor who wants to point out that "codification is by no means a defining characteristic of a civil law system" is correct on this ground. However that classification is not as useful as one which cites certain characteristics like codification, differences in application, and precedents. Reading the article, a few like it and the page I mentioned above, it seems like it is to such an classification that modern scholars are tending. Thus, it would seem a better classification on which to base the article.

Note: I do not have much legal background. I am just a helpful Wikipedian giving his few pesos and leaving actual content decisions to better prepared hands.

BrotherE (talk) 17:22, 23 July 2008 (UTC)

I am surprised to read the statement that Scandinavian law is largely uncodified. I think this may be inaccurate or misleading. Nordic law is usually regarded as part of civil law tradition although less derivative of Roman law than German and French (K. Zweigert & H. Kötz, An Introduction to Comparative Law, 3rd ed., Oxford, 1998). The map in the article even shows the Scandinavian countries plus Finland belonging to the Civil law group. It is also misleading to characterize Scandivian codes as unsystematic, for instance Norway does in fact have unified and "consolidated" codes. In Norway, it is fairly easy for anyone to navigate as all current acts passed by Parliament are edited into a single volume with notes and cross references. In comparison they are perhaps somewhat less systematic than the great German and French books. Norwegian courts also cites precedents, but (as far as I can understand) only when existing codes are inconsistent, unclear or inadequate. Mondeo (talk) 16:45, 2 September 2008 (UTC)

I just checked this with a professor of jurisprudence. He says that Norwegian law system is constructed around the same frame as German law (which in turn was strongly influenced by Roman law). Main difference is that in Norway "topical" laws have been and still are added chronologically, but otherwise Norwegian law is rather systematic. In addition, Norwegian judges are relatively independent but are still quite loyal to the legislative. To some extent, then, courts create law. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Mondeo (talkcontribs) 11:43, 3 September 2008 (UTC)


  1. ^ Eskeland, 510
  2. ^ 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] Check date values in: |date= (help)
  3. ^ Makdisi, John A. (June 1999), "The Islamic Origins of the Common Law", North Carolina Law Review, 77 (5): 1635–1739CS1 maint: Date and year (link)
  4. ^ Boisard, Marcel A. (July 1980), "On the Probable Influence of Islam on Western Public and International Law", International Journal of Middle East Studies, 11 (4): 429–50
  5. ^ University of Bergen law department (in Norway) in their European Credit Transfer System Information package page
  6. ^ John Henry Merryman, in the second edition of The Common Law Tradition
  7. ^ The quote is:
    The term "civil law" as applied to a legal tradition actually originates in English-speaking countries, where it was used to lump all non-English legal traditions together and contrast them to the English common law.

Sovereign state (17th c) vs nation state (19th c)[edit]

I reverted an edit regarding the birth of the nation state (nationalism), as it appears that the anonymous editor is refering to the idea of sovereignty (peace of westphalia) rather than nation state. Please add comments if i am mistaken. Mondeo (talk) 22:57, 5 September 2008 (UTC)

'History' error[edit]

Ok, when I first saw it, the first line of the History segment had a bit which read "[[Middle Ages|medievalacts" I fixed this, but I don't know what the author actually meant. Can someone grab this? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Xaerun (talkcontribs) 10:20, 16 September 2008 (UTC)

civil case to small claims[edit]

how do you determine to file a small claims case to a civil case —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:17, 2 January 2009 (UTC)

Four kinds of civil law[edit]

Currently, the article claims scholars of comparative law divide civil law into four independent classes, but then goes on to list five. Something needs fixing here. MJM74 (talk) 03:32, 24 May 2009 (UTC)

Major Legal Systems of the World[edit]

I see many problems with this table. 1. It tries to imply that Common Law is used in more countries. 2. It says that Japan uses common law. 3. It tries to say that Civil Law is an hybdrid between Socialist law and Common Law. Are judges really career bureaucrats in all Civil Law countries? --zorxd (talk) 18:18, 26 June 2009 (UTC)

Nearly all of them. Which is a rather incoherent and messed-up way to build a judiciary, which is why more and more countries, like France, are experimenting with the Anglo-American method of appointing judges from experienced lawyers. --Coolcaesar (talk) 07:38, 14 July 2009 (UTC)

Renaming to Continental law?[edit]

As this article notes, "civil law" is also called "Continental law", and the term "civil law" originated in Anglophone countries as a way to categorize all those non-English speakers. This is complicated, however, by the fact that every legal system has to an extent a branch of private law called "civil law (common law)" as opposed to "criminal law". The use of the word "Continental law" for "civil law" is about as old and roughly as common (see, for example, this Google Scholar search, which shows a 1934 article using "Continental law"). Renaming this article would reduce unnecessary confusion. The lead would still acknowledge in the first sentence that this is also known as "civil law". II | (t - c) 22:37, 3 January 2010 (UTC)

I strongly disagree with your proposal. The problem is that civil law is no longer just limited to the continent of Europe, because so many former colonies modernized their legal systems by importing components from civil law legal systems of their colonizers. There's also the problem of WP:COMMONNAME; the usage you are referring to is archaic and obscure. That is, very few lawyers use the term "continental law" nowadays, and when it is used, it is often used specifically to refer to European continental law systems as opposed to the broader concept of "civil law" legal systems. --Coolcaesar (talk) 03:31, 4 January 2010 (UTC)

Socialist law[edit]

I wonder why so called "socialist law" is detached to a separate column. As far as I understand, an official law in USSR was an example of a classic civil law. Can somebody refer me to a source that distinguishes socialist law from civil law? Besides, most data in this column are not correct. For example, judges were not required to be party members (officially, in practice most of officials were anyway), judges were not just bureaucrats but professional jurists(*) exactly as in other countries, courts were not subordinate to the legislature but formally independent, information about juries is wrong etc. I think this column is misleading and should be eliminated, maybe some sentences should be added in the text about differences in USSR practice and western practice. --Mgar (talk) 08:39, 8 March 2010 (UTC)

Agreed. Please step forward with the changes.--MathFacts (talk) 11:14, 26 June 2010 (UTC)

Correction to the map: Mongolia[edit]

Mongolia is a civil law country like any other and should be colored blue on the map. I'm not aware of any modern state where you could say that "customary law" (whatever you mean by that, exactly) is the primary legal system. Obiara (talk) 20:05, 16 April 2010 (UTC)

Correction to the map: Sri Lanka[edit]

If you blow the map up enough you can see that Sri Lanka is colored green (customary law) too. I think it should probably be brown (bijuridical)? Obiara (talk) 20:21, 16 April 2010 (UTC)

Brendan C. Slowe[edit]

Who the heck is this? Not a coauthor! Someone's been corrupting wikipedia?--Elvey (talk) 20:55, 3 February 2011 (UTC)

Socialist law[edit]

The article contains a table including "Socialist law", which I wonder is a real system or not. Smells original research. AzaToth 20:08, 22 June 2012 (UTC)

The socialist legal tradition is a partially recognized legal tradition alongside the civil law and common law traditions. See "Comparative Criminal Justice Systems" by Philip L. Reichel (ISBN 0-13-091287-5), pp. 92-98. In sum, the author argues that, and please pardon my cultural indifference, because of Russia's rather late exit from the dark ages in the middle of the 20th century and the complementary lack of a rule of law in Russia, Russia has traditionally viewed law as just one (IMO rather insignificant and under-utilized) method of governmental (read: socialist, before that czarist) policy, and hence as only being a tool by the bourgeoisie and of little significance to the common person. ("Law is like a wagon tongue, it goes wherever you turn it.") The author also discusses the Chinese legal system in the same context.

I view it as, in effect, a common law system where the "customary law" is that of socialist policy, as decided by those in power instead of judges. (Note it would still be nothing like English law, which is probably one of the only nations in the world without a formal codified law; even the US had "penal codes" and "codes of criminal procedure" starting in the 1860s (1870s in California), making UK law quite unique in this respect.) I think it provides amazing insight into the culture (legal and otherwise) of socialist countries. Note this view of a legal tradition is only partially recognized, as even the aforementioned author admits that some believe it is merely a twist on the civil law tradition, modified by Russia's unique history (my "dark ages" comment.) Int21h (talk) 19:06, 17 July 2012 (UTC) Int21h (talk) 00:08, 18 July 2012 (UTC)

Islamic Law[edit]

The question of what countries apply Islamic law needs serious consideration. Considering that very few countries (e.g. Saudi Arabia, Iran, and partly Sudan) identify Islam as "the" source of the law, it is important to formulate a clear standard on how and when to determine that a particular country applies Islamic law. For example, in most Arab countries (the only exception being, perhaps, Tunisia, which only accepts civil law), the general rule is for Islamic Shari'a to determine "personal issues", such as marriage and divorce, while the rest of the legal system is governed by civil law, with the constitution usually stipulating Islamic Shari'a as "a" source of legislation. Furthermore, it is the rule in these countries for religious minorities, e.g. Christians, to have their own separate laws and courts for ruling on these matters. So I suggest adding a new category of mixed/bijuridical Islamic/Civil law, similar to the one for civil and common law. This would be a far more accurate representation of the situation in many Muslim countries. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:58, 29 September 2012 (UTC)

History of meaning[edit]

You assume that civil law and common law are two legal systems alternatively enforced in different countries (except those system that you call "mixed"). This is true only after England abandoned Civil law with the Judicature Acts. In fact, the two expressions were born in Middle Ages England to label two different legal traditions within the same Kingdom. There were jurisdictions of Common law (the Courts of Westminster) and of Civil law (e.g. the Court of Admiralty), the latter ones dealing with familiy law (which was regulated by Canon law like in all Europe) and international law (commercial and maritime, which were regulated by the lex mercatoria). The lawyers of Common Law had a practical training in the "cradle", while the Civil lawyers of England studied at Oxbridge, which, like all other European universities, tought only Roman law. Lele giannoni (talk) 17:14, 21 October 2013 (UTC)

It is true. Don't forget the Court of the Lord High Constable and Earl Marshal of England etc. My understanding is that these civil law courts (Court of High Commission, Court of Requests, Council of the North, and Council of Wales and the Marches) were often suppressed by common law courts with writs of prohibition and were eventually almost completely overcome much due to the influence of Sir Edward Coke and their link with the king in the era of the English Civil War. Int21h (talk) 02:25, 22 October 2013 (UTC) Int21h (talk) 02:28, 22 October 2013 (UTC)

Bangladesh Incorrectly Shown As a Sharia Law Country[edit]

Why does the map highlight Bangladesh as a Sharia Law country? It's judicial structure is highly based on English Common law. Here's another article which says exactly that: — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:23, 20 January 2014 (UTC)

Quite, Bangladeshi websites speak of Bangladeshi law being based in part on English common law. The Wikipedia page Law of Bangladesh says it is primarily in accordance with English law. The map should be changed. Everybody got to be somewhere! (talk) 21:16, 18 March 2014 (UTC)

Copyright problem removed[edit]

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"Latin America"[edit]

Guyana and Belize aren't Latin American countries, they're Anglophone which would make them "Germanic American" countries (like Suriname, those U.S.A., Jamaica, Etc.) which is also why they use Common Law, please don't use Latin America in a geographical sense when it's purely linguistic. Latin America ≠ South-, Central-, and Middle-America. -- (talk) 11:22, 26 January 2016 (UTC)

Done. -- (talk) 13:26, 26 January 2016 (UTC)

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Legal Systems Map: Taiwan[edit]

In the Map_of_the_Legal_systems_of_the_world_(en).png, the letter next to Taiwan is a D. There is no D in the label. Anyone care to clarify? --Timeu (talk) 13:38, 29 June 2017 (UTC)

Maybe this map comment should be discussed here?[edit]

Just removed the following snippet from the main article:

  • [CORRECTION NEEDED: The Legal Systems of the World image to the right, indicates that the entire Jewish State of Israel is under Muslim/Sharia Law for Personal Status issues. This is false and needs correction. Also the article and map indicate that Jewish/Halakha Law should appear in the color white on the map, but no country on the map is shown in white. This also needs to be corrected.]

I believe a) that such comments should be on the talk page rather than in the article, and b) that the author of this snippet is mistaken in that the map seems to indicate that a combination of several law systems (one of them Jewish Law) is in effect in Israel. It could be argued that the shade of blue chosen is a bit hard to differentiate. In any case, this discussion would be more appropriate on the page of the map itself. Nettings (talk) 11:18, 3 August 2018 (UTC)