Common Law

Common Law

Common law in Law Enforcement

Main Entry: Law Enforcement in the Legal Dictionary. This section provides, in the context of Law Enforcement, a partial definition of common law.


This term is a noun.

Etimology of Common Law

(You may find common law at the world legal encyclopedia and the etimology of more terms).

mid-14c., “the customary and unwritten laws of England as embodied in commentaries and old cases” (see common (adj.)), as opposed to statute law. Phrase common law marriage is attested from 1909.

Common Law in Maritime Law

Note: There is more information on maritime/admiralty law here.

The following is a definition of Common Law, produced by Tetley, in the context of admiralty law: Common law is the legal tradition which evolved in England from the 11th century onwards. Its principles appear for the most part in reported judgments, usually of the higher courts, in relation to specific fact situations arising in disputes which courts have adjudicated. The common law is usually much more detailed in its prescriptions than the civil law (see this maritime law term in this legal dictionary). See See Tetley, Mixed Jurisdictions: common law vs. civil law (codified and uncodified) (Part I) (1999-4) Uniform Law Review 591-619 at p. 597; Tetley, Int’l. M. & A. L., 2003 at pp. 7-8.


See Also

  • Law Enforcement Officer
  • Police Officer
  • Law Enforcement Agency

Further Reading

English Legal System: Common Law

In the context of the English law, A Dictionary of Law provides the following legal concept of Common Law : 1. The part of English law based on rules developed by the royal courts during the first three centuries after the Norman Conquest (1066) as a system applicable to the whole country, as opposed to local customs. The Normans did not attempt to make new law for the country or to impose French law on it; they were mainly concerned with establishing a strong central administration and safeguarding the royal revenues, and it was through machinery devised for these purposes that the common law developed. Royal representatives were sent on tours of the shires to check on the conduct of local affairs generally, and this involved their participating in the work of local courts. At the same time there split off from the body of advisers surrounding the king (the curia regis) the first permanent royal court – the *Court of Exchequer, sitting at Westminster to hear disputes concerning the revenues. Under Henry II (reigned 1154-89), to whom the development of the common law is principally due, the royal representatives were sent out on a regular basis (their tours being known as circuits) and their functions began to be exclusively judicial. Known as justiciae errantes (wandering justices), they took over the work of the local courts. In the same period there appeared at Westminster a second permanent royal court, the *Court of Common Pleas. These two steps mark the real origins of the common law. The judges of the Court of Common Pleas so successfully superimposed a single system on the multiplicity of local customs that, as early as the end of the 12th century, reference is found in court records to the custom of the kingdom. In this process they were joined by the judges of the Court of Exchequer, which began to exercise jurisdiction in many cases involving disputes between subjects rather than the royal revenues, and by those of a third royal court that gradually emerged – the Court of King’s Bench (See Court of Queen’s Bench). The common law was subsequently supplemented by *equity, but it remained separately administered by the three courts of common law until they and the Court of Chancery (all of them sitting in Westminster Hall until rehoused in the Strand in 1872) were replaced by the *High Court of Justice under the Judicature Acts 1873-75.

2. Rules of law developed by the courts as opposed to those created by statute.

3. A general system of law deriving exclusively from court decisions.

Common Law Meaning in the U.S. Court System

The legal system that originated in England and is in use in the U.S. today. Common law relies on the articulation of legal principles in a historical succession of judicial decisions. Common law principles can be changed by legislation, but legislation is subject to interpretation by common law methodology. Many areas of the law, such as bankruptcy, are now codified in detailed statutes, but these statutes are applied according to their interpretations by successive precedents established by the courts.

Meaning of Common Law in the U.S. Legal System

Definition of Common Law published by the National Association for Court Management: The legal system that originated in England and now used in the majority of the states in the United States. It is based on judicial decisions rather than legislative action.

Concept of Common Law in the context of Real Property

A short definition of Common Law: The body of laws, originated and developed in England, which was adopted by most states and still prevails if not superseded by statute. Also referred to as case law.

Concept of Common Law in the context of Real Property

A short definition of Common Law: The body of laws, originated and developed in England, which was adopted by most states and still prevails if not superseded by statute. Also referred to as case law.

Meaning of Common Law in the Past

The common law is that which derives its force and authority from the universal consent and immemorial practice of the people. It has never received the sanction of the legislature, by an express act, wbich is the criterion by which it is distinguished from the statute law. It has never been reduced to writing; by this expression, however, it is not meant that all those laws are at present merely oral or communicated from former ages to the present only by word of mouth, but that the evidence of our common law is contained in our books of Reports and depends on the general practice and judicial adjudications of our courts.


The common law is derived from two sources, the common law of England (see more about this legal system) and the practice and decision of our own courts. In some states the English common law has been adopted by statute. There is no general rule to ascertain what part of the English common law is valid and binding. To run the line of distinction, is a subject of embarrassment to courts and the want of it a great perplexity to the student. Kirb. Rep. Pref. It may, however, be observed generally, that it is binding where it has not been superseded by the constitution (see more about this popular legal topic in the U.S. encyclopedia) of the United States or of the several states or by their legislative enactments or varied by custom and where it is founded in reason and consonant to the genius and ways of the people.[1]


Notes and References

  1. Partialy, this information about common law is based on the Bouvier´s Law Dictionary, 1848 edition. There is a list of terms of the Bouvier´s Law Dictionary, including common law.

See Also

Common Law in Admiralty Law

For information on common law in this context, see the entry on common law in the maritime law encyclopedia.

Common Law (Judicial Function)

Common Law

Hierarchical Display of Common law

Law > Sources and branches of the law > Source of law

Meaning of Common law

Overview and more information about Common law

For a more comprehensive understanding of Common law, see in the general part of the online platform.[rtbs name=”xxx-xxx”]


Translation of Common law

Thesaurus of Common law

Law > Sources and branches of the law > Source of law > Common law

See also


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