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5 months ago
What is common law? What is the advantage of common law and why is it an important aspect of the legal system?
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Business and Its Environment
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The common law, or judge-made law, is a body of law that has evolved through cases brought before the courts by private parties. The decisions made by judges serve as precedents for future cases, and the set of precedents establishes a body of law. Judges also interpret statutes, and their interpretations can become part of the law.
One perspective on the law is that it is imposed from above by a legislature or, in earlier times, by a ruler. In issuing decrees, even a ruler may look for guidance to how the people have organized their activities. For example, people privately developed practices for the control and management of land, and in England the king often looked to those practices as the basis for the king's law. That law then evolved both as the practices of people evolved and through the precedents set by the king's court and subsequently by public courts. The resulting body of law is referred to as the common law. It is used in the United Kingdom, the United States, and most of the other former English colonies.
Common law countries typically have an adversarial system of litigation in which each party advocates its side of the dispute and judges and juries render decisions based on the evidence, the arguments provided, and precedents.
The advantage of the common law is that it can adjust to changing circumstances without having to wait for new statutes to be enacted by legislation. The common law evolves through lawsuits filed by people in response to the problems they need addressed.
In the United States, the common law governs a number of important domains, including property, contracts, torts, products liability, and some aspects of labor contracting. The decisions of judges and the precedents established have been codified in a number of areas. On some matters statutes have been enacted to address specific issues in the domain of the common law.
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