Civil Law

Definition of Civil Law

The body of laws that govern ordinary private matters, separate from laws presiding over criminal, military, or political matters. The body of law that governs private or civil rights, providing redress for wrongs by compensating the person or entity that has been wronged rather than punishing the wrongdoer.

Civil law is:
  • A comprehensive system of rules and principles usually arranged in codes and easily accessible to citizens and jurists.
  • A well organized system that favors cooperation, order, and predictability, based on a logical and dynamic taxonomy developed from Roman law and reflected in the structure of the codes.
  • An adaptable system, with civil codes avoiding excessive detail and containing general clauses that permit adaptation to change.
  • A primarily legislative system, yet leaving room for the judiciary to adjust rules to social change and new needs, by way of interpretation and creative jurisprudence.
Some salient features of civil law:
  • Clear expression of rights and duties, so that remedies are self-evident.
  • Simplicity and accessibility to the citizen, at least in those jurisdictions where it is codified.
  • Advance disclosure of rules, silence in the code to be filled based on equity, general principles, and the spirit of the law.
  • Richly developed and to some extent transnational academic doctrine inspiring the legislature and the judiciary.

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