Civil Law Definition and Overview

Civil law or European Continental law or Romano-Germanic law is the principal system of law in the world. Civil law is the legal tradition that derives from Roman law. The primary feature of which is that laws are written into a collection, codified, and not (as in common law) interpreted by judges. Civil law seeks to resolve non-criminal disputes such as disagreements over the meaning of contracts, property ownership, divorce, child custody, and damages for personal and property damage.

The body of laws of a state or nation deals with the rights of private citizens. The law of ancient Rome as embodied in the Justinian code, especially that which applied to private citizens. A system of law has its origin in Roman law, as opposed to common law or canon law. Unlike criminal law, Civil law regulates relationships amongst persons and organizations. Civil law, in this sense, is usually referring to redress to civil law courts (as opposed to criminal courts) and is often used as a means to resolve disputes involving accidents (torts such as negligence), libel and other intentional torts, contract disputes, the probate of wills, and trusts, and any other private matters that can be resolved between private parties.

Conceptually, it is the group of legal ideas and systems ultimately derived from the Code of Justinian, but heavily overlaid by Germanic, ecclesiastical, feudal, and local practices, as well as doctrinal strains such as natural law, codification, and legislative positivism. The function of civil law is to provide a legal remedy to solve problems. Sometimes civil law is based on a state or federal statute; at other times civil law is based on a ruling by the court.

In the United States, civil law has two meanings. One meaning of civil law refers to a legal system prevalent in Europe that is based on written codes. Civil law in this sense is contrasted with the common-law system used in England and most of the United States, which relies on prior case law to…

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