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Costa Rica Civil Law versus Common Law

by Super User

Costa Rica Civil Law vs Common Law

What Is Common Law:

Common Law is the legal system practiced in many countries such as the United States, England, Canada and Australia.  It’s origins date back to the ancient laws of England based upon customs and enforced by judgments and decrees of the courts.  These laws can be traced back to medieval times where it was believed that law was passed down by the King’s Court.  This system of law prevails in countries that were colonized by England and are practiced to date.

Common law is based on case law, generated by the courts vs legislative enactments practiced in countries relying on a civil law system.

What Is Civil Law:

The Civil Law system is predominate in Europe and areas that were colonized by France and Spain.  Although the United States practices Common Law, the State of Louisiana, being colonized by France, practices Civil Law.  This is also the case in the Canadian province of Quebec.

Civil Law’s origins are based back to the Roman Empire (Corpus Juris Civilus) that developed the concept of compiling written laws into codes.  The earliest of this form of coding was found in the “Code of Justinian” from Emperor Justinian I.  This was the foundation and inspiration of three more influential and modern legal codes.  These three codes are French (Napoleonic), German and Swiss.

The Civil Law System is governed by doctrines developed by scholars.  Legislators in civil law countries use these doctrines to develop code by which legal controversies are decided.

Costa Rica Civil Law vs Common LawWhat Is The Code:

The Code is a book which sets down subjects and subdivisions within the law which are approved by the legislature.  The Civil Law system is most commonly used in countries such as Cost Rica.

What Are The Subdivisions of Laws:

Civil code addresses various areas of law by subdividing them into specific legal topics.  These Are:

The Law of Property,

The Law of Succession,

The Law of Obligations,

The Law of Persons and

Commercial Laws

Due to a wider range of issues and situations within the United States, the use of written law has taken a stronger stance in both federal and state statutes.

In some European countries under Civil Law, changes have also come about to address a wider range of issues.  Publishing and organizing case law is known as Jurisprudencia (or Jurisprudence).

Unlike common law countries, Costa Rica’s court decisions are not necessarily binding on other courts.  The only exceptions to these rules are the decisions passed down by the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court.  The decisions by the Constitutional Chamber must be followed by all other and lower courts in Costa Rica.

Civil Law vs Common Law:

In a nutshell, civil law refers to a legal system that is based on written code.  Where common law relies on prior case law in order to resolve various disputes instead of the code.   The reality today is that most countries use a combination of the two.  They codify their laws into written statutes and then use case law to provide guidance for the application and interpretation of the statutes.


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