Common law: System of law derived from the English system of laws "common to the population," produced primarily by a group of judges to harmonize their decisions with those in other parts of the country. It was introduced after the Norman conquest of England as a means of unifying the country. Common law builds on precedents. This is in contrast to the French-type system of civil law.
Civil law: Legal system whose law is centered around a comprehensive legislative code (e.g., such as that established by Napoleon in France).
Civil law: In the United States, law under which a person (the plaintiff) may sue another person (the defendant) to obtain redress for a wrong committed by the defendant, for example a breach of contract. This is in contrast with criminal law. Criminal law: Law that defines public offenses against the state or government and prescribes their punishment. This is a part of public law, which also includes constitutional and administrative law.
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