Common law is a law system which comes from England and it is a way to decide a case or implement a law based on previous decisions of former judges who had similar cases and made precedent in history of law. This common law is in contrast with statutory law and implies that similar circumstances must be treated same, no matter if the occasions are different.
♦ Common law can be applicable in various fields of law, except cases that fall within federal law (although some cases are decided by the precedents in federal law).
♦ This system of dealing with cases is conducted in many countries that were once parts of great British Empire, thus America also accepted common law.
♦ Beside America, there are also countries like Ghana, Sri Lanka and many others, but there are also some former British colonies that didn’t accept this system, such as Quebec.
♦ This law system is evolving, meaning changing constantly and every country has its own common law.
♦ Common law is being used in every state in America (except Louisiana).
♦ In America, this type of deciding cases, when judges write opinions, oblige future judges to pay special attention to these previous decisions. If you haven’t been to court, you could hear examples of common law in a movie in which the plot is situated in the courtroom: some character can “call on to a case Mr. John Smith vs. state, on the matter of … which was decided such and such…”
♦ Property matter, tarts, marriage and divorce matters often fall within common law in every country that has chosen this type of law deciding. Of course, when this type of deciding cases was created, it was a different time. So one can sometimes call on to a certain case just to point out some similarities or to increase the chances for his/her success in court, but it is actually the judge who decides whether the circumstances of some past case are applicable or not. Some cases might be similar to cases that were decided long time ago (such as divorce, or property matter), but cases with environmental issues sometimes cannot. Times change, so legal issues can seem different in different periods, although these issues may have a lot in common.