What is Common Law?
What is common law? Common law, also called common law precedent or judicial law is a law which is developed by the courts s judgments that then generally govern future legal decisions in similar circumstances. Rather than relying on statutory and regulatory laws of the federal government, common-law is used in most court cases especially in cases that are not governed by civil laws. The main difference between civil and common law is that civil laws are ruled on by the courts whereas common laws are generally ruled by common law courts. When a person is charged with a crime, it is always the common law courts that decide the case.
In American law, there are seven common law courts including U.S. Supreme Court, circuit courts, state courts and numerous lesser known courts. The most famous ones are the Seventh Circuit and the Fifth Circuit. All have precedents in their respective jurisdictions. However, the ultimate decision of a case is always decided by the Supreme Court.
The common law can be described as the long standing traditions and precedents which are built up over a period of time. However, in past times, these were commonly established by “judicial authorities” which are the prominent leaders of society. In modern times, these institutions have been institutionalized. But the change has not occurred throughout the entire system. In fact, in some states, the same common laws and judicial authority still exists under the name of statutory law.
Statute law governs all legal actions under the jurisdictions. It consists of precedent law. For example, suppose you go to a state court to raise a custody case and the court refuses to grant your motion. In such a situation, it will take an act of Congress, either as a statutory right or as part of the Constitution, to correct the problem.
Although, there are common laws existing in every state, that does not mean that they cannot be broken. They can be broken when a political subdivision or executive branch takes action in disregard of a precedent. That is commonly seen in the courts where the executive and judicial authorities take contrary actions based upon political considerations. Such instances can be resolved by amending the statute which would alter the scope of the law so as to reflect the changing political reality. But again, the question is whether it is wise …