MAJOR LEGAL SYSTEMS

In addition to the types of law, there is a large variety of legal systems. The dominant legal systems that exist in various forms throughout the world are the Romano-Germanic (civil) law, common law, socialist law, and Islamic law. The Romano-Germanic civil law systems predominate in Europe, in most of the former colonies of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Belgium and in countries that have westernized their legal systems in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Common law systems are predominant in Englishspeaking countries. Islamic systems are found in the Middle East and some other parts of the world to which Islam has spread. Socialist legal systems prevail in the People’s Republic of China, Vietnam, Cuba, and North Korea. Remnants of socialist systems are still found in the former Soviet Union and Eastern European countries. We now explain these systems further.

ROMANO-GERMANIC SYSTEM (CIVIL LAW SYSTEM)

The Romano-Germanic, or civil, law refers to legal science that has developed on the basis of Roman jus civile or civil law (Plessis, 2010). The foundation of this system is the compilation of rules made in the sixth century A.D. under the Roman emperor Justinian. These rules are contained in the Code of Justinian and have evolved essentially as private law, as a means of regulating private relationships between individuals (Mears, 2004).

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Code of Justinian competed with the customary law of the Germanic tribes that had invaded Europe. The code was reintroduced in law school curricula between A.D. 1100 and A.D. 1200 in northern Europe, then spread to other parts of the continent. Roman law thus coexisted with the local systems throughout Europe up to the seventeenth century. In the nineteenth century, the Napoleonic code and, subsequently, the code of the new German Empire of 1900 and the Swiss code of 1907 are examples of the institutionalization of this legal system.

Codified systems are basic laws that are set out in codes. A code is simply a body of laws. These statutes are enacted by national parliaments that arrange entire fields of law in an orderly, comprehensive, cumulative, and logical way. Today, most European countries have national codes based on a blend of customary and Roman law that makes the resulting systems members of the Romano-Germanic legal tradition.

 
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