What is Civil Law?

Civil law is a legal system that defines private rights and remedies and resolves disputes between individuals in areas such as contracts and property. Civil law is also known as civil law or Roman law. The civil law system was born in Rome. The doctrines compiled by law scholars under a code serve as the primary source of law.

Characteristics of civil law

The civil law system uses precisely structured codes on a written constitution. Codification is a common feature of civil law, since each state requires a law that can be applied to its jurisdiction. There are codes that concern corporate tax laws and laws, as well as constitutional and civil codes.

There is a clear separation of powers in civil law. The judiciary is highly independent of the legislative and executive arms of the government. The judicial court can issue independent sentences without the fear of influencing other branches of the government. In the decision-making process, the courts have equal but separate powers.

Legislation laws are the only laws considered binding in all civil laws. There is little reference to the laws created by the judges in the commercial, civil and criminal laws. While judging, the courts are very specific of the underlying codes. In some civil law systems, the writings of legal scholars have an influence on the courts. Germany applies this method significantly.

Civil law groups

The Napoleonic code, which takes its name from the French emperor Napoleon, concerns the law on property, commercial law and the law of people. The countries that use this system include France, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, Chile, Luxembourg, Romania, Belgium and most Arab countries when they do not use Islamic law. Former colonies like Louisiana (USA) and Quebec (Canada) use this code despite the rest of their country’s use of common law.

The Chilean code was developed by the legislator Andres Bello. Some of its laws come from the Napoleonic code with the exception of the laws relating to the family and succession. This system is adopted by Latin American countries such as Colombia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Venezuela and Panama.

The Germanic code system applies in Germany, Latvia, Austria, Estonia, Lithuania, Serbia, Romania-Dutch, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Greece, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Portugal, Brazil, Turkey, South Korea , Thailand, Japan and Taiwan. The Nordic code system applies in Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Sweden and Finland.

China uses a mixture of socialist and civil law. Macao uses the Portuguese legal system. Hong Kong uses the common law. Other countries such as Cameroon and South Africa use bi-juridical law, since Cameroon was colonized by both France and the United Kingdom while South Africa was colonized by the United Kingdom but influenced by settlers from the Netherlands.


It is clear that a civil law system is based on more perspectives than common law. This is due to the established legislation used in deciding cases unlike the use of judicial precedents in common law. However, in some places, a government is required to assess whether particular legislation is needed to allow or limit the scope of contracts such as infrastructure projects.

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